You could hear the slight sadness in Jamie Downey Steele’s voice.
Steele is a senior goalkeeper at Asbury University and a 2017 Ashland alumna. She’s thoroughly satisfied with her soccer career, but she’s aware it’s almost over.
“Melancholy,” is how Steele describes it.
“I still have basically another whole semester to play,” Steele said. “It is kinda crazy to think I’ve been playing this sport since I was in elementary school. … It is heartbreaking in a way.”
Asbury coach Elyse Overton said Steele was her first recruit.
“Jamie does well for us between the sticks,” Overton said. “She’s confident. She’s definitely fierce in the goal.”
Steele said “the rush” is why she became a goalkeeper as a grade-schooler at Hager Elementary.
“It comes with a lot of weight, being a goalkeeper does,” she said. “You don’t make a save and a goal gets scored on you, that weight goes on you, and everybody’s, ‘the goalkeeper let the goal in.’”
In 84 games with Ashland from 2013-16, Steele compiled a 1.5 goals-against average with 20 shutouts. This year at Asbury, she has 43 saves with a 1.21 goals-against average and .754 save percentage.
“What she brought is desire. She was willing to work hard,” former LadyCats coach E.B. Lowman said. “She knew that she could get better, that we could help her. She worked at it. She worked hard at it.”
There’s an extra challenge: at 5 feet, 2 inches, Steele is a bit undersized in the net.
“I have to be able to cover more space outside of the goal,” Steele said. “I have to be able to come forward and be quick on my feet. ... A goalkeeper that’s taller can just kinda sit in her (5.5-meter) box and make a save. I have to be more aggressive.”
Overton added: “She’s a smaller keeper, so there’s a lot more she has to do in the air that other keepers average height don’t have to do. Jamie had good hands when she came to us, and she was very athletic already; she’s very willing to stretch out and dive and kinda throw her body on the ball.”
Steele said U.S. Women’s National Team keeper Ashlyn Harris is her goalkeeping role model.
“She is just fearless,” Steele said. “She wasn’t always the goalkeeper that people knew about, and she didn’t always play, but whenever she was in the goal, man, she showed up.”
Steele grabbed the River States Conference Defensive Player of the Week for her two consecutive shutouts. She saved six shots in a 6-0 win Oct. 8 at Brescia University and four more in a 4-0 blanking of Ohio Christian Oct. 10 in Circleville.
Ask Steele – or Overton – about 2020’s most memorable save. They both recall a 2-0 win Oct. 31 at Point Park University in Pittsburgh.
About the 70th minute, Point Park’s Amy Packard fired at Steele. Overton thought it was a goal.
“All I remember is, there was just, like, a cluster of people, there were so many people standing in my way,” Steele said, “and I was trying to find the person with the ball, moving around, trying to make sure that I could see.
“I could hear it before I could even see it. I was trying to find it desperately. I finally found the ball.”
Asbury (7-4-1) finished the fall season Thursday with a 4-0 shutout of Oakland City. Steele made two saves to earn her seventh clean sheet. The Eagles are off until the RSC tournament in April.
Steele’s life looks good. She married Connor Steele Jan. 4, she’s scheduled to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art & Design, and she wants to work at a small company.
And yes, she’s also considering coaching.
“I think it would be hard for me to let go of the game altogether,” Steele said. “I do love learning more and teaching the game as well.”