The net suits Sam just fine |

The net suits Sam just fine

Eileen JoyceForest Lake Christian's Sam Van Winkle waits in the goal during the Falcons' matchup against Trinity Prep Tuesday. Van Winkle enjoys the pressure of working the goal.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

When Sam Van Winkle’s schoolmates bump into her in the hallways of Forest Christian Lake Christian High School, they’re apt to get a quick smile through a sea of freckles. And if they’re lucky, maybe an amusing story or two.

The sophomore goaltender’s tales are so funny, teammates on the Lady Falcon soccer team battle it out to see who rides in the same car with her on road trips.

“It’s hard to explain why (she’s so funny). It’s just the random things that come out of her mouth,” FLC co-captain Kelsey McKeever said.

Jokes aside, on the field she’s all business.

Van Winkle, who earned Central Valley Christian League first team honors last season, is a redheaded brick wall in goal.

She’s tallied 105 saves and recorded six shutouts this season.

Not bad for someone who’s never had any formal goalie training.

“I haven’t been a goalkeeper all my life. I started (as a forward). I enjoy playing in the field, but I like keeper too,” Van Winkle said. “My dad was a really good goalie, and he taught me what to. He taught me all about the angles and where to be.”

FLC co-coach Ron Hutchinson said Van Winkle, who started playing soccer 12 years ago, has all the gifts to be a top goaltender.

“She has great anticipation and a real good understanding of the game. And because she’s played so long, she has the confidence a lot of girls on our team don’t,” he said.

Coleen Winans, the other half of the Lady Falcon coaching staff, agreed.

“She’s consistent and dependable in goal. (Those qualities) probably make up any great player, but especially a goalie, because you don’t want someone in there who has good days and bad days,” Winans said. “She really gets excited about shutting a team out. If anyone does score on her, it’s usually on an amazing shot.”

The Lady Falcons made school history this season with a trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs. Winans said Van Winkle is a big reason why.

“We lost three or four games in the first half of last season, and because of some position changes we made, we were undefeated (the rest of the way). One of the changes was putting her in goal,” Winans said. “If I’d made that change earlier last year, we probably would have been undefeated the whole year.”

Van Winkle, 16, can also hurt you with the ball at her feet.

Just ask Trinity Prep of Napa.

After a first-half shutout in goal Tuesday, Van Winkle moved to the front row for the second 45 minutes.

She scored two goals in three minutes, as the Falcons won 9-0.

“I’d rather be in the field. Sometimes when you play goalie and you’re not playing against a tough team, you can get pretty bored out there because you’re not getting a lot of action. But when you’re a forward, you’re up there in the midst of everything,” Van Winkle said.

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