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Oxford goalie has volleyball background

OXFORD -- If college life is all about making transitions, then Oxford College sophomore Willa Brooks is probably an expert by now.

A standout outside hitter while at Carrboro (N.C.) High School, Brooks is now solidly ensconced as the goalkeeper on the Oxford College women's soccer team, although she said she hadn't played soccer since the fifth grade.

"For whatever reason, our recruiting did not pan out for a goalkeeper, so we were really surprised when we were able to grab Willa," said Oxford coach Gregory Moss-Brown, whose Lady Eagles travel to Barnesville to face Gordon College on Friday and will host Andrew College on Sunday.

"She has been absolutely amazing. We thought she'd be pretty good because of her ability to use her hands in volleyball. It's been a very interesting transition for her. In our first few games, she's just been rock solid."

The 5-foot-6 Brooks, who recorded 10 saves in the Lady Eagles' 3-1 loss at Andrew College last Saturday, said she had no plans to play soccer when she enrolled at Oxford.

"Last year, I played a lot of volleyball with some girls on the soccer team, and they told me (Moss-Brown) was looking for a volleyball player to play in goal for the soccer team," she said. "I said no because of the time commitment -- I had things I wanted to do at home over the summer and didn't want to have to come back to school early for training. But by the time I got back, they still didn't have a goalie, so I decided to give it a try."

Oxford College lost its season opener 4-0 at Judson (Ala.) College in a game where Brooks posted nine saves. The Lady Eagles then won their home opener against Tennessee-Temple, 1-0, when Brooks recorded seven saves.

While Moss-Brown has raved about Brooks' play this fall, she's been a little more critical of herself.

"It's definitely been a learning experience -- plenty of ups and downs," she said. "But things are progressing. In our first game, I had no idea what I was doing -- I was in the wrong position most of the time. But I learned about moving forward and cutting down on shooters' angles and by the next game I knew a lot more about placement -- I was in the right place at the right time. It's gotten better from game to game."

"Willa's a natural athlete -- that's what does it," added Moss-Brown, now in his second season coaching Oxford College. "The flow from volleyball to goalkeeping was quite easy. It would have been much more difficult if she was asked to be a field player, because of being able to use her hands."

This week, the Lady Eagles meet Gordon College at 7 p.m. Friday at Highlander Field in Barnesville and host a rematch with Andrew College at 6 p.m. Sunday at Bivings Field. Gordon College, which hosted Middle Georgia Tuesday night, is 0-3, having lost to Georgia Perimeter (10-0), Abraham Baldwin (11-1) and South Georgia (4-5).

Moss-Brown attributed coming up short at Andrew to a number of factors.

"They definitely took advantage of our three-and-a-half-hour drive and the not-so-great conditions," he said of Andrew. "We were exhausted by the time we got there and it was basically jumping off the bus and starting the game. Their first goal came five minutes into the first half."

The Lady Eagles' lone goal came in the second half from freshman Tiffany Bien off an assist from fellow freshman Kalysea Lovan. Moss-Brown said momentum, especially with regard to getting an early lead, is critical for Oxford College.

"Road trips are learning experiences," said Moss-Brown. "Andrew played well. We played well, but not well enough to secure a lead. At this level, when you score the first goal, it's like this awesome energy is found. That's hard to come back from. But I think we've been able to deal with it. It's all a part of sports maturity. We should be better -- we'll be well-rested because we don't have a mid-week game."

For more information on Oxford College women's soccer, visit http://oxford.emory.edu/athletics.