Jaeger gives women’s soccer consistent 90-minute option, leader in back line

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Photo by Kate Holstein

As Bri Jaeger started the 2018 season, she had some big shoes to fill at center back following the May graduation of vocal leader Madison Dunker.

“Dunker was a huge voice and a huge leader, so she definitely left the mark on the team,” Jaeger said. “We still talk about it today.”

Now with Dunker working for Ball State’s athletic department, Jaeger has her chance to fill those shoes, playing a pivotal part in Marquette’s back line.

“The past couple years (I) have been developing,” Jaeger said. “Now this year has been really putting (those skills) into place; really knowing where my place is.”

Jaeger has hardly touched the bench, playing in 1083 of 1110 possible minutes. She did not sit out a minute until the team’s Sept. 9 win over Drake, in which she played 85 minutes instead of the typical 90.

While star players like Carrie Madden and Kylie Sprecher had limited minutes in key games against Duke and North Carolina, Jaeger did not miss a minute.

“She’s been playing great pretty much every game this year,” head coach Markus Roeders said. “She is embracing the leadership role.”

The only player to be on the field more than Jaeger this season is junior goalkeeper Maddy Henry, who has been on the field for nine more minutes all season.

Henry and Jaeger have much different styles throughout games. While Henry takes every opportunity to be the vocal leader, Jaeger lets her play do the work.

“(Jaeger) is maybe a little bit more selective (than Henry),” Roeders said. “You can be vocal with your voice, but you can also just be loud in your play. I think she’s been very loud at her play.”

But when Jaeger talks, the rest of the team listens. Following freshman Alyssa Bombacino’s third career goal Sunday afternoon, she credited Jaeger’s leadership for helping her with the transition to collegiate soccer.

“I look up to (Jaeger and Allison Jacobson),” Bombacino said. “They give us good instructions on how to go forward and what we should do.”

And Jaeger said she doesn’t mind having a more outspoken player behind her.

“I’m not really a huge, loud person, so it’s nice to have Maddy who’s really loud in the back,” Jaeger said.

Jaeger attributed much of her ability to play so much to her offseason conditioning.

“You have to put in the work before the season,” Jaeger said. “Right after the season, you’re getting ready for the next season.”

Part of that preparation has been playing with fellow center back Allison Jacobson for the last eight or nine years on the same club team.

“We have had that chemistry for a while,” Jaeger said. “It’s nice to have a familiar face back there. We learned each other’s tendencies early on.”

Jaeger’s senior year has included some turbulence. The team is off to its worst start in program history.

“It’s driven her nuts just as much as anybody that we have on our team that we haven’t been able to get more shutouts,” Roeders said.

Marquette must go almost perfectly through the final six regular season matches and win at least one game in the BIG EAST Tournament to avoid Markus Roeders’ first losing season in 23 years as head coach.

“It’s been tough. The start definitely was something we didn’t expect to happen,” Jaeger said. “The most important thing is everyone staying together as a team. We lose together. We win together.”

And last year’s leader is certainly not surprised to see Jaeger fill her role.

“Whenever she had the opportunity to step up in games, you really have to allow people to develop and gain those skills,” Dunker said. “Whenever she had an opportunity to step up in practice, she did. She was always really willing to learn.”