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Training, improved health means larger role for Bri Jaeger

Bri+Jaeger+went+from+playing+a+combined+18+minutes+in+her+first+two+years+to+over+800+this+year.
Bri Jaeger went from playing a combined 18 minutes in her first two years to over 800 this year.

Bri Jaeger went from playing a combined 18 minutes in her first two years to over 800 this year.

Photo by Olivia Qualls

Photo by Olivia Qualls

Bri Jaeger went from playing a combined 18 minutes in her first two years to over 800 this year.

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Entering this season, longtime head coach Markus Roeders needed to find the next Carrie Madden.

Madden went from only appearing in 15 minutes of action her first two years on campus to leading the team in almost every statistical category her redshirt sophomore year.

“This time last year, nobody would’ve really talked about Carrie Madden,” Roeders said in August. “And see what Carrie Madden has done for us this past year.”

With BIG EAST play coming up in under a week, Roeders appears to have found an answer: redshirt sophomore center back Bri Jaeger.

Like Madden, Jaeger had a minimal role on the pitch her first two years on campus. She played only 18 total minutes, mostly in nonconference matches that were all but won or lost by the time she entered.

“Although (Jaeger) is a redshirt sophomore, she didn’t play last year,” Roeders said. “The first year she played in a few games and she was mostly injured.”

This year, Jaeger has been a totally different player. She has averaged 86.2 minutes per game — more than everyone else on the back line except senior Madison Dunker. Jaeger also had her first career goal Sept. 17 against Rhode Island.

Jaeger’s path to relevance faced a major obstacle last season when a thigh injury sidelined her for the whole season. She would have to watch the Golden Eagles’ run to a BIG EAST regular-season title from the bench.

“She just had to battle with a lot of injuries. She had that thigh problem for a long time and that wasn’t really going away, which kind of hampered her ability to really get fit,” Roeders said. “When you don’t have that fitness level, then it’s hard to be out there.”

“Being hurt last year was really difficult, obviously,” Jaeger said. “Then getting back in the spring and over the summer was really nice to work with, like, 10 other girls that were here.”

There were only a handful of other players available for the spring season because 10 players from last year’s team graduated, including center back Erin Holland, who was ahead of Jaeger on the roster. Jaeger did not miss her chance. She impressed in spring play and also got into much better shape. That physicality has carried over to this season, too.

“I’m really proud of what she’s done so far,” Roeders said. “She’s giving us a level of sophistication (and) physicality back there that can really go a long way toward us continuing to be as solid as we are.”

Jaeger also had her first chance to gel on the field with this year’s other contributors in the back line, including fellow underclassmen Mary Kate Simon and Emily Hess.

“We lost 10 seniors last year, and now our graduating class is five, so obviously it’s very different and the chemistry has changed,” Jaeger said. “But we all really got along in the spring and we were really hopeful the first couple games.”

The other regular starter in the back line is also the one that Jaeger said was most important to her development: Dunker. As someone who had already appeared in 47 matches by the start of her senior season, Dunker knew a thing or two about maintaining composure on the pitch.

“(Dunker) has been a great leader back there and definitely has helped teach me,” Jaeger said. “She’s been really good with keeping composure and staying positive.”

There was plenty of time for Jaeger to learn from Dunker during the summer. The two center backs stayed on campus with several of their teammates to train. “She worked extremely hard this summer on getting fitter and stronger,” Roeders said. 

With Jaeger playing a larger role in the back, Marquette has thrived despite a challenging nonconference slate. The Golden Eagles already have six shutouts this season, more than they’ve had in the last three years of nonconference play combined. 

“She’s done a fantastic job there and has really committed herself on trying to be somebody that can be out there all the time,” Roeders said. “So we want her to just keep growing in that role.”

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