Courtesy of Salt Lake Tribune
Roger is a plastic pigeon that goes where Woller goes. It’s strapped to her backpack to and from practice. It hangs from the canopy on Utah State’s sideline at every game, home and away
When the sophomore first brought Roger to practice, her teammates and coaches didn’t know what to make of it. Over time, the pigeon, like the Aggies’ quirky keeper, has blended into the team.
“It’s a good luck charm,” coach Heather Cairns said. “With a character as colorful as Jeannie, you’ve got to give her some leeway.”
Woller has been a good luck charm as well for the Aggies, which are 3-0-1 this season. Their 5-foot-6 starting keeper has presided over three shutout victories and has earned both Mountain West defender of the week honors thus far.
Off the field, she’s a wacky comedienne. Last year, she was one of the hosts for the Aggies’ USTARS event, a end-of-the-year banquet for athletes, in which she did skits, performed an original rap and gently poked fun at other sports in a photo montage. Her dance stylings are a well-known feature on the sidelines of other events. She’s a creative writing major who one day hopes to emulate her idol, Tina Fey.
But put Woller in goal, and she’s a whole different person: collected and calm, but a fierce competitor when her team needs her to be.
“The beauty of Jeannie is when you see her on the field, she really turns it on,” Cairns said. “I love when she makes a big save and takes our defenders and gives them a great shake if they make a great play. She’s definitely funny, but when she gets on the field, she brings that energy that is just magnetic.”
Woller’s outsized personality took roots at the Waterford School, where she was a four-year all-state keeper and won three state titles. In a graduating class of about 55 people, Woller shined. She cultivated her interest in music, writing, humor and sports. Naturally, she was the student body president.
It was an adjustment from Waterford to a public university with thousands of students. But the bigger change for Woller was competition. She was the unquestioned starter for her club and high school team, but at Utah State, she sat behind Ashlyn Mulford on the depth chart.
“Sitting last year was probably the best thing that could’ve happen to me,” Woller said. “I learned so much from Ashlyn.”
After playing in six games as a freshman, Woller is now the unquestioned starter and one of the key leaders on defense. She started the season with three straight shutouts, complete with dazzling saves.
Against Nebraska, she finally gave up a goal – two, actually, – in the first half. But her teammates came through with a pair of goals in the second half, and Woller corralled enough shots and loose balls in the box through two overtime periods to pull out a 2-2 draw.
And that may be the biggest thing she’s learned in her time at Utah State: Acting witty and being dramatic has its place off the field, but on the pitch, she has to be composed. And even when she gives up scores here and there, her strength lies in believing she’ll stop the next shot.
“We just get together as a team, it’s just I get in this mentality,” she said. “I’m a goalie. I have to be the best goalie on the field today. Even if I’m not, if I think it, I become it.”
Jeannie Woller file
» Avalanche 94
» Shut out three of Utah State’s first four opponents
» Two-time Mountain West defender of the week this season
» Played in six games as a freshman for USU during the 2012 season
» A four-time All-State honoree at Waterford