Daily Orange file photoWomen's Soccer
Change of heart: Goalkeeper Anghel rekindled her love for soccer to become standout at SU
She loved the sport. She loved being active, and she especially loved diving in the mud. But for reasons unknown to this day, 6-year-old Brittany Anghel walked to the middle of the soccer field one day, crossed her arms and made a definite declaration: “I’m not playing this sport anymore.”
Her mother asked the reason for the sudden change of heart, but Brittany simply said she didn’t want to play.
“I said, ‘I just paid for you to play the whole season,’” Karen Anghel recalled. “She said, ‘Well get your money back because I’m not going to play.’ I realized there was nothing I could do. The whole object is for her to have fun and exercise, and I realized she wasn’t going to have any fun. So she didn’t play.”
How times have changed.
Anghel has rediscovered her love of soccer and “couldn’t be happier” as the goalkeeper for Syracuse. While she’s had her ups and downs, Anghel, now a junior, has become a celebrated keeper at SU. She ranks second on the school’s all-time list with 18 shutouts and her 21 wins are tied for third all-time.
Anghel returned to soccer at 11, playing recreationally in East Meadow, N.Y., for coach Pete Galantino. Galantino saw her potential and invited her to play as a guest on his travel team. She made the team full time the next year.
“In August they had a neighborhood clinic at the local park and on the last night they had goalkeeper training. And they taught the girls how to dive,” Karen Anghel recalled. “She loved it. I mean she was like diving all the way to the car, diving on the concrete. She was like, ‘Oh, this is so much fun.’”
Even in her first travel game she shined. The tournament she played in had a strange rule that goalkeepers couldn’t take more than six steps in the goal box, and Anghel didn’t know this. She was continuously penalized and her opponent took penalty kick after penalty kick.
“Somehow the ball would get through the wall and every time she’d come out with the ball on the other side,” Anghel’s mother said. “It was amazing. And this kept on happening because she kept on taking more than six steps.”
Anghel’s success continued with stints on various travel and school teams, including the renowned Albertson Fury.
“Over the years she always came up with saves that were just mind boggling,” Fury coach Phil Casella said. “She’s just perfected the position as well as anyone could have done at her age on Long Island or in New York.”
Although she took over the starting position at SU early in her freshmen season, her success didn’t come easily. She struggled with the team’s fitness standards.
“In August they had a neighborhood clinic at the local park and on the last night they had goalkeeper training. And they taught the girls how to dive. She loved it. I mean she was like diving all the way to the car, diving on the concrete. She was like, ‘Oh, this is so much fun.’”
Karen Anghel , Brittany Anghel's mother
“I got pretty down on myself,” she said. “After that, after I dug myself out of that little rut, I stopped complaining and being negative and became this really positive person. Every day I kind of just tell myself to be happy and just seize the moment.”
About three years ago, Anghel began keeping a journal. She chronicles everything in life, soccer and not. She tries to do it three times a week, and says it’s a great way to clear her mind. She goes into games “lighthearted” and relaxed, and it’s a big reason for her success.
“When I came back to school (for sophomore year), I came from a spring where I was struggling, wasn’t fit, wasn’t ready for the standard,” Anghel said. “I came back after the summer I was killing all the fitness tests. The coaches were so proud of me.”
SU head coach Phil Wheddon said one thing that’s impressed him about Anghel is her never-ending drive to get better, specifically with fitness. Anghel ranks in the top eight on the team in fitness and Wheddon said she’s set a standard for field players as well.
Wheddon, who was also a goalkeeper and has experience as an assistant coach with the men’s and women’s national teams, has mentored Anghel. Wheddon works with her for an hour each practice and the two occasionally meet to watch film.
“He strives for perfection, and that’s what I want. I want to be perfect,” Anghel said. “He’s the best of the best, he really is. He’s trained Hope Solo, Tim Howard, been to the highest levels, World Cups. He’s seen the world. And to have him coaching me, teaching me how to play the game, that’s pretty special.”
Wheddon rewarded Anghel for her play when he invited her to the U.S. national camp in May.
“He’s so cheesy,” Anghel said. “He was like, ‘Do you have sunscreen?’ I’m like, ‘What, what are you talking about, Phil?’ And he’s like, ‘Well, you just got invited to L.A. to train with the (U-23) national team.’ And I was like, ‘Whoa.’”
Wheddon said a roster spot opened up and he naturally recommended Anghel. Wheddon said she performed so well in camp that if there were an international game to be played at that point, she would have been the starting keeper.
Wheddon said he sees the competitive drive in Anghel that Solo and U.S. goaltending great Briana Scurry have, and that will help her as she improves.
Anghel has five shutouts this year and is a big reason for the team’s nine wins. As the team preps for the postseason, Anghel is ready to take another step in her career.
“Although it was hard at the beginning, it was all worth it,” she said. “I’ve learned valuable things here that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. I really think these girls have an opportunity to do something not only this year, but in years coming. I really think that Syracuse is going to be a powerhouse.”
SU’s turnaround strongly correlates with Anghel’s arrival. She’s a main character in a narrative that could have a fairytale ending this season. A story Anghel would surely make room for in her journal.
Contact Josh: firstname.lastname@example.org
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