Transfer goalkeeper anchors women’s soccer’s backline

Media Credit: Jack Borowiak | Staff Photographer

Goalkeeper Tamaki Machi kicks the ball during a game against Maryland.

In her first few games on the field, redshirt freshman Tamaki Machi has established herself as women’s soccer’s go-to goalkeeper.

The Tokyo native, who transferred from Kentucky in January without seeing action as a Wildcat, has amassed 21 saves through four games for the Colonials (2–1–1), boasting a .778 save percentage. Machi said she has emphasized strong communication with the defensive line to ensure stability and composure in front of the net.

“I try to communicate with them a lot,” Machi said. “We still have a lot of things to work on, but for the moment, I think it’s really nice to have a solid back four.”

The Colonials have allowed six balls to land in the back of their net this season, the most since 2017 when opponents netted seven goals in the first three games. Machi said consistent communication between her and the defenders minimizes the number of runs in behind the backline.

Machi began the season as the Colonials’ No. 1 goalkeeper. She has started each game and is one of five players on the team to never leave the pitch, playing all 380 minutes. She secured a season-high eight saves in her performance against Liberty, playing a role in the squad’s 3–2 win.

Head coach Michelle Demko said transferring in January gave Machi more time to acclimate to GW and get to know her teammates than if she had waited until the end of the school year to transfer.

“She can learn the ropes in terms of what are the different resources she has and she comes in at a time where there’s not heavy travel, so she’s not missing classes right off the bat and trying to play catch up,” Demko said.

In addition to Machi, sophomore midfielder Rachel Sorkenn, redshirt sophomore forward Sammy Neyman and redshirt sophomore midfielder Anyssa Ibrahim transferred into the program, playing a combined 790 minutes and garnering three assists and a goal. Five freshmen also joined the squad for the 2019 season.

Demko said the transition to the team and her role as the starting goaltender was “seamless” because of Machi’s upbeat, team-first attitude.

“She’s really funny, she’s light-hearted, but when she’s on the field, she’s down to business and is a really hard worker,” Demko said. “She’s a really good team player, super easy to get along with, very inclusive and has a lot of friends on the team.”

Demko said Machi’s shot-stopping ability to distribute the ball at long ranges and vision of the field have been assets to the team.

“Her shot-stopping is great,” Demko said. “She’s really good with her feet, but also, we can change the point of attack with her as well. She’s pretty accurate on long balls with her feet.”

Machi is starting in goal for the first time, but her defensive line carries at least one year of experience. Defenders redshirt senior Megan McCormick, senior Olivia Di Cristofaro, junior Allie Nornes and sophomores Hannah Zaluski and Madi Coyne have started all four matches.

Nornes said the backline’s experience this year will contribute positively to the overall chemistry between Machi and the core of returning defenders.

“She is really comfortable with the ball at her feet, which isn’t common in a lot of keepers,” Nornes said. “You’re more comfortable to pass the ball back to her and she’s also capable of switching the point of attack.”

Machi’s performance through four games puts her on par with former goalkeepers 2017-graduate Miranda Horn and 2019-graduate Anna Tapen.

Through the first four matchups of her first season as a starter, Horn collected 16 saves, earning her a .942 save percentage in 2014. Tapen, who took on the starting position as a senior in 2018, amassed 19 saves, attaining a save percentage of 90.5 percent.

Machi has stopped more shots through four games than her predecessor, scooping up 21 shots on the year. But her .778 save percentage is on average 14.6 percent less than the two starting net-minders who came before her.

Machi is the first redshirt freshman to take over the program since Horn. Horn cemented herself in the record books as the leader in shutouts (31) and fourth of all time in saves (314).

Demko said the season is still early, and Machi’s areas of improvement will reveal themselves once she gains more minutes and experience on the pitch. But in her first showings of the season, Demko said she is pleased with Machi’s performance.

“There’s not really much I would change about Tamaki, to be honest with you,” Demko said.

The Colonials return to action at home Thursday against Towson. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m.

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