March 10, 2023
For someone who hadn't played competitive indoor soccer until this past January, Jakeb Mitchell has turned into a very quick study, and someone who has earned high marks for his performance.
Just ask the Iowa Demon Hawks.
The Rochester Lancers goalkeeper stoned the team's Major Arena Soccer League 2 rivals in what turned into a 4-2 victory on Feb. 25.
Mitchell made 33 saves, some of them via shots from point-blank range, at the Total Sports Experience in East Rochester, N.Y.
Indoor soccer might be played with the small ball as the outdoors version, but "it is a completely different game," Mitchell said on the Soccer is a Kick in the Grass radio show on Monday night.
"The speed is faster. Your movements are way different," he added. "When Jake [Schindler, head coach] first approached me in October/November to come try it, I was like yeah, I'll give it a shot. The first a couple of weeks and practice, it was like I got hit by a bus because I didn't even know what I was doing. I have played soccer for the last 14 years, and it felt foreign."
Not foreign enough for the Brockport, N.Y. native to excel in his first four games.
The 6-1, 198-lb. Mitchell has registered a league-best 4.50 goals-against average, entering this weekend's home games against the Muskegon Risers. He is second in save percentage (.753) and fourth in wins (four) for a team that has played less games (six) than any other side. An M2 regular season consists of 12 games for each of the 15 clubs.
Despite his inexperience indoors, Mitchell has excelled.
"If you think about being a goalie for indoor soccer, it's kind of like being a hockey goalie," he told co-hosts Andrew Battisti and Joe Sirianni. "You're screened a lot, you don't know what's coming in. So positioning is really important. Sometimes it's okay not to save the ball in your hands. You can save it with any piece of your body as long as you can keep the ball on the back of net. It's a good thing in hockey. It doesn't matter what you get on it."
Translated, a goalie needs to be fearless.
"I mean, if you're scared, if you're scared of the ball coming in your direction, you shouldn't be a goalkeeper," Mitchell said. "It's just something when I started doing it back in eighth or ninth grade. It was just something that never really affected me. I kind of thrive on it."
In fact, Mitchell had to remind his teammates to fire away, regardless of where they were on the field.
"In practice, sometimes the guys take it easy when they're close," he said. "I was like: 'You're not going to take it easy on a goalie or in a game. Let it fly. I've got to make saves, too."
Mitchell then turned to some self-effacing humor to describe a goalkeeper’s plight.
"I used to joke around with everyone, and I still do. Growing up to be a goalkeeper you've got to be a little touched in the head or something because somebody that voluntarily goes into the goal and wants to get rifled with shots," he said. "Something's not got be right."
If getting nervous before an indoor soccer match is the recipe for success, then Mitchell discovered the right formula.
The 22-year-old keeper admitted that he had some nerves prior to the home game against the Iowa Demon Hawks on Feb. 25.
He then turned in that virtuoso performance, making 33 saves.
Minutes after Rochester recorded a 9-6 win past Iowa with Daniel Maddock in the net the previous night, head coach Jake Schindler told Mitchell that he was starting the next encounter. Both keepers were sitting together in the locker room at the time.
"The last time we played the Demon Hawks, I played the first half and Dan played second. "We asked for sort of a similar situation, and Jake goes, 'No, you're playing the whole game.'
"I just prepared for that like any other game. I went home and had a good dinner and had a good night's sleep. Woke up. I was nervous most of the day."
Mitchell said that he and Maddock texted each other several times, "Just talking about how nervous I was. Once we got to the game, we got a really good warm-up in."
He was all business.
"Once you get that first save in your hands, you just get locked in for the game," Mitchell said. "At the end of the game I had 33 saves. I couldn't even probably tell you 10 of them that I had."
When he isn't guarding the Lancers goal, Mitchell is a nurse at Rochester General Hospital. He majored in biology at Potsdam State, with chemistry as a minor. According to his bio on the Potsdam athletic website, Mitchell's career ambition was to be a surgeon.
"I've always wanted to do the medical field," he said. "It just so happened that where I was at my I in my life after college and nursing was seemed like a good fit."
Mitchell doesn't know how much he will play against the Muskegon Risers on Friday and Saturday at the Total Sports Experience in East Rochester, N.Y. Both contests kick off at 7:45 p.m. Rochester swept its first two games of the campaign in Muskegon in January.
If the Lancers (5-1-0, 14 points) win both games this weekend, they will climb into first place in the North Division. The Demon Hawks (6-3-1, 18), who have only two games left in the season, lead the division.
Though the Risers (2-8-0, 5) are in last place and out of the playoff picture, Mitchell refused to take anything for granted.
"They're really good counterattacking team," he said. "They like to run. We're just going to stay organized in the back. As long stay organized, there's really not a team that we can't be in that league. Goals will come. We've just got to stay as a team and do the same thing and get the job done. Just because they're at the bottom of the table doesn't mean that they can't play soccer. We can't take them [lightly]. We have to play just like we did with the Demon Hawks."