Kiersten Turner ’16 has been an integral part of the women’s soccer team’s best start in over a decade. She has scored three goals in just five games, and all of them have been game-winners. Two of her goals, one against Bates and another versus Middlebury, decided one-goal contests. Turner also recorded an assist in the Polar Bears’ win over Middlebury. Her performance won her the NESCAC Player of the Week recognition.

Turner has earned her a strong reputation as a goal scorer. She scored 12 goals last season and has retained her position at the top of the offensive formation. This year, as the team speeds forward, Turner spends most of her time daring defenders to chase her across the field. She purposefully runs to stretch the defense and can chase and hold the ball in her team’s end of the pitch, giving her teammates time to switch into the proper offensive formation and join her upfield.

Head Coach Brianne Weaver said that teams have started to focus their attention in Turner’s direction this season, marking her aggressively when she does not have the ball and swarming her when she tries to take a touch. As a player who enjoys winning individual matchups, Turner admits it has been more difficult to dominate in the way she has in the past.

“It’s been more mentally challenging for me—figuring out how to get around defenders,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking so much last year about how I was performing.”

“She sets a high standard for herself,” Weaver said. “With all the accolades that she earned last year and all the success that she had, I know that she wants to see that success again.”

It was not until the team’s third game this season that Turner earned a point. Teammate Jamie Hofstetter ’16 noted that Turner has been frustrated at times.

“During the first half of [the Middlebury game] she struggled,” she said. “They didn’t give her any time or space to move with the ball. You have to be dynamic moving off the ball so you’re always an option. The more stagnant you are the easier it is to close you down.”

“But she’s a nuisance,” Hofstetter continued. “She has really quick bursts of speed and she’s really good at getting a touch on the ball. It happens really easily sometimes.”

Turner said she takes a bit of solace in knowing that her presence opens the field up for her new partner, Amanda Kinneston ’15, who has absorbed most of the time Hofstetter had seen as the other forward over the last two years. Hofstetter has moved to playing center midfield but in certain formations still plays forward with Kinneston and Turner, or in place of Kinneston. 

This helps both players stay rested by not having to play in the center midfield position for the full 90 minutes. While Kinneston labels herself as more of a goal-scorer—her stats are identical to Turner’s so far this season—she bears more similarities to Hofstetter than Turner. Both have excellent technical skills, work as facilitators and are often praised for their skill holding the ball.

“I think we’re similarly-minded players,” Kinneston said. “We like to have the ball and play from our feet. Kiersten is good at running to the ball and using space.”

Still, it is not rare to see all three of them putting pressure on the opposing defenses, particularly as they try to clear the ball out of their own end. Weaver has emphasized an aggressive team defense that starts with the forwards and Kinneston has said it makes it easier for the midfielders and defenders to read where balls go. In this scenario, Turner often remains alone when facing the defensive line.

The team started its season with four straight conference wins in a row, all of which were decided by one goal, including a double win against Wesleyan and wins against Amherst and Middlebury. Turner’s teammates expect her to her hit stride as the season wears on. The Polar Bears will play two non-conference games before finishing their conference schedule.

“I think Kiersten does better as the season goes on,” Hofstetter said. “Once she scores a goal, her confidence goes up. Every game makes her more comfortable.”