By Jacob Horowitz
One finishes the year reflecting on her time at Northeastern and looking ahead to the next chapter. The other only just began his Husky stint and hopes to continue to outperform expectations. Nathalie Nidetch and Noah Abrams, this year’s women’s and men’s starting goalies, respectively, are both coming off a strong year of form.
After head coach Ashley Phillips, who was then only an assistant coach, saw Nidetch at the high school club level, it was clear that the Hewlett, New York native could make an immediate impact at Northeastern. In Nidetch, Phillips saw raw shot-stopping ability and natural explosiveness. In Northeastern, Nidetch saw a burgeoning program, coming off the back of two recent championship titles.
“You could tell that the program was moving up,” Nidetch, now a senior, said. “I wanted to be part of that.”
Coaches expected Nidetch to challenge for the starting spot when she arrived, but things didn’t go as planned.
“I think that her freshman year it took a little time to get her feet on the ground and just have that same confidence that we saw on the recruiting path,” Phillips said.
Only a sophomore, Abrams was head coach Chris Gbandi’s first recruit a few years ago. He spent the last two years of high school playing at a Massachusetts prep school where Gbandi knew the coaches well.
Abrams impressed Gbandi with his shot-stopping skills and precocious, on-ball composure. Gbandi impressed Abrams with his passion.
“In his next five years he wanted to bring our team to a Final Four,” he said. “That’s always been in the back of my head since I committed here my junior year.”
But Gbandi also made it clear that Abrams would need to train hard for two years before he could see consistent playing time.
“I didn’t have high expectations,” Abrams said. “I was confident with my abilities, but I told myself that I was going to come in and work as hard as I could every single day and then hopefully play.”
Abrams spent his freshman year learning from fellow goalie and senior captain, John Thuresson. Through this mentorship, Abrams earned himself a start in two games freshman year, rare for a first-year keeper.
“[Thuresson] was an amazing role model and someone I really look up to today,” Abrams said. “He taught me, not through things that we spoke about but kind of [through] everything [else], how to conduct yourself and how to be a leader.”
Abrams’ hard work paid off as he secured his starting spot for his sophomore season. Since then, Abrams has led the team’s other two goalies, Adam Gostomelsky and Chandler Cree. Their relationship developed quickly through shared support and motivation.
“Whoever’s playing, I think we support each other really well,” Abrams said. “We have really good camaraderie. I think we’re three different types of kids completely but we push each other and bring out the best the other.”
For Nidetch, her relationship with elder keepers Jill Quinn and Mollie Rosen was difficult at first but ended up being just as fruitful. When she arrived, Nidetch saw others as competition, an obstacle in the path of the starting spot.
“It definitely gave me something to work towards because they pushed me every day,” she said. “They made sure that I was going to play the best I could because If I was going to be the one starting, the whole team depended on me.”
Since earning her starting spot during her sophomore year, Nidetch made a similar transition as Abrams from student to teacher. Nidetch took her experience to heart, feeling responsible for the younger goalies.
“The way I look at it, any goalie that comes in after me is working so that they can eventually be a starter,” she said. “I never really thought of them as a threat. Not because they weren’t good, but because I want to help them get better too and they’re going to help me get better.”
From this attitude, an intimate friendship quickly developed. The group calls themselves “Keeper Union.”
“[Nidetch] took them in under her wing,” Phillips said of the senior’s relationship with her mentees. “She encouraged them, was positive with them, and helped them get better too.”
Nidetch made great strides in development since becoming a Husky. She said her biggest improvements come from the mental side of the game, citing confidence as the missing ingredient during her first two seasons.
In Phillips’ mind, Nidetch’s biggest growths came tactically: “Her biggest growth was just the understanding of the game and reading of the game a little bit better which allowed her to organize her back line and hopefully see less shots overall.”
Nidetch’s future after graduation is uncertain, but she has high hopes. She is pursuing a professional contract overseas but is focused on recovery at the moment after breaking her back in her final appearance. But as she looks to move on, she is confident in the future of Keeper Union.
“They have all of the capabilities of doing it. They’re going to have to step into a role they’re not used to but I don’t think they’ll have any issues with it.”
Abrams is in a similar state of mind, nursing his head injury with big expectations for the future. He has already identified the part of his game most needing improvement this offseason, pointing to his struggles in beginning a counter-attack. Other than that, Gbandi agrees that most of Abrams’ gains in ability will come through experience.
They may be at opposite points in their career, but Abrams and Nidetch have proven their roles for Northeastern’s soccer teams between the posts.
Featured image by Alex Melagrano.