July 8, 2022
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - If she had her way, Katie Cappelletti would rather not touch a ball during a game.
Now, that might sound a big strange because that's what a goalkeeper needs to do for her team to be successful.
But there's a good reason why the Rochester Lady Lancers keeper feels that way.
"It's totally funny," she said earlier this week. "I'm always like, I don't like I don't like touching the ball because it means I have to do something, but I love being a goalkeeper, playing that position. When I do get to touch the ball, it's such a thrill. In some way it's a better game if I don't have to touch [the ball]. My team did their job and took care of business and cleaned everything up for me. But I'm always willing and love to step in when I need to and when there's a chance on goal."
Just call it preventative medicine via proper communication.
"Oh, it's everything," said Cappelletti, who is expected to backstop the Lady Lancers in their United Women's Soccer regular season finale against the Erie Commodores (4-1-3, 15 points) at Aquinas Institute in Rochester, N.Y. on Sunday at 2 p.m. "I would say it's probably one of my best assets as a goalkeeper. Sometimes, it's not about making the saves. It's about like strictly communication. That's something I learned from a very young age. You can ask my mom. The one thing she said to me is, 'Make sure you talk a lot before every game because I think it's so beneficial when you can organize your defense and get them where you want them to be in an effort to not have to touch the ball.'
"When you set yourself up for success. a greater majority of the time you don't have to do anything which as a goalkeeper is awesome. My center backs, also do a great job of communicating to the line in front of them, which sets them up for success and then kind of just a domino effect going backwards."
While she might tend goal, the 19-year-old Cappelletti is forward thinking, looking ahead to Sunday and how important that match is to clinch the United Women’s Soccer Penn-NY Division title. Both the Lancers and FC Buffalo enter the final weekend with 6-1-2 records and 20 points. Buffalo, however, has better goal differential (plus 13 to plus nine), even after Rochester's 5-0 road win at FC Berlin at Buffalo State on Tuesday night.
If Buffalo defeats the Pittsburgh Hotspurs (0-7-2) on Saturday night, it will make the Lancers' chances that more difficult against the Erie Commodores on Sunday. They would have to fill the net to make up for the differential.
"If we were able to make the playoffs that'll be like great," Cappelletti said, adding that Tuesday night's win showed "how hard we're working towards earning that spot. We really tried to rally hard to tally has many goals as possible to try and decrease the goal differential on Buffalo in hopes of making a playoff spot. I think every single girl in that field worked their tails off [Tuesday] night to put numbers up on the board. As long as we can take care of business on Sunday with Erie hopefully it will be in a good spot and can secure spot."
That Berlin result was Cappelleti's fifth consecutive clean sheet and sixth shutout overall.
When she keeps the opposition off the scoreboard, Cappelletti said that it was "definitely a great feeling. It's probably like the best thing you can do as a goalkeeper - to keep the ball out of the net. When I see a clean sheet like I know I've done my job and kind of cleaned up the defensive end of things. Our offense has been putting up good numbers for us to help us in that area. If I can do my job, I know my team could take care of theirs."
Cappelletti, who sports a 0.77 goals-against average, has allowed seven goals in nine games this season, including four in the 4-0 season-opening loss at FC Buffalo. Since then, she and the Lady Lancers have conceded only three times.
After surrendering a goal, the former Jamesville-DeWitt High School standout said that she can't allow it to get to her emotionally to upset her game or her teammates.
"It definitely isn't a great feeling," she said. "You never want to get scored on but it's part of the game. It's going to happen. It also depends on like the situation. We've been in a couple big games like our game against Erie when we were up to one and then they scored at the 92nd minute off a free kick. That was definitely hard. Not a good feeling.
"I try not be an emotional goalkeeper. I try not to have horrible reactions. I don't think that does anything well for me or the team. It [could] make me get in my head and then I will continue to make mistakes, silly mistakes, like messing up the basic things just because I am so frustrated, consumed by one goal. ... I keep in the back of my mind is not to be emotional because I know like the domino effect that will have on the rest of the game for me and my teammates.
Afterwards, the six-foot Cappelletti said she will worry about any goals she surrenders by watching video, "and see, what could I have done differently and how could I have set up my backline differently. What communication would have changed this play."
On the flip side, Cappelletti makes many more saves than allowing goals. That can be exhilarating.
"It's the best feeling you could have," she said.
But again, she admitted that any keeper needed to keep their emotions.
"You try and keep your motions together and not react as much as maybe want to because there's still how many minutes left in the game," Cappelletti said. "You've got to stay focused and locked in. But I feel like that's what it's all about, coming up in those big moments and making it safe for your teammates who've been obviously working hard for you all game. Being able to return that favor almost is probably the best part of being a goalkeeper."
Cappelletti was attracted to the game as a kid and began tending goal at the age of six. She was volunteered to play in the net by her teammates for a club team in suburban Syracuse.
"We kind of showed up to our first game at Jones Road, and everyone was kind of like, 'So who's going to play the goal?' I haven't really said anything. Everyone was just like, chanting my name is Katie. 'You're the tallest one, go back there and like stand there and literally I've been there since then. I haven't stepped out of the bowl. It totally happened by chance. I guess being a tall kid growing up that put me in the net."
Six-years-old at the time, Cappelletti surmised she was about five-feet tall.
And she has stood tall in the goal, overcoming so many situations and challenges thrown her way by the enemy.
"I just love the thrill of being in the net," she said. "You never ever know what's going to happen. I feel like you never see the same play, at least within a year of each other. Every game you'd expect something different. Every team plays differently, and they create different chances on goal.
"I also love that like I'm able to still play with my feet, which is something that I've worked on to like strengthen my footwork to be able to play out of the back and in some instances start the attack, but other times just try and break lines and get my team going and start a counter. I love goalkeeping. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
Whenever the Lady Lancers season ends, Cappelletti won't have much time to catch her breath.
"Not much," she said.
Saint Joseph's University (Philadelphia), where Cappelletti will be a junior, starts its preseason on July 31. If the Lancers reach the postseason and pull off a few wins, the respite could be shorter. The squad's first scrimmage is scheduled for Aug. 8.
Playing in the UWS the last two years has been invaluable to keep in shape and keep her goalkeeping form.
"Last summer when I played UWS, it prepared me great for college soccer," Cappelletti said. "I couldn't say enough. I got touches on the ball. I was facing great competition. I felt like my game improved tremendously. I can only say the same about this year. I have been playing against great competition. There are teams that have a lot of shots and I've seen good amount of action. But I've also gotten a lot more comfortable with my feet, which is something that was like a goal for me over the summer heading into college soccer for fall."
But first things first, and that's the Commodores on Sunday.
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Admission to Lady Lancers game is free for the 2022 season.
In place of purchasing a ticket, fans are encouraged to donate to the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. You can donation to the coalition at https://bccr.salsalabs.org/
Aquinas Institute is located at 1127 Dewey Ave., Rochester, N.Y.
For complete Lady Lancers information, visit www.RochesterLancers.com.
The Rochester Lancers are the longest serving brand in professional soccer in the United States, having started in the American Soccer League in 1967.