Erin Webb is used to starting.
In her senior soccer season in high school, she led Rock Canyon High School in Castle Rock, Colo., the 13th-ranked school in the nation, to a 16-2-1 record while battling injuries.
That experience didn’t stop the nerves running through her veins and the butterflies flying around her stomach when she heard her name boom from the speakers at Audrey J. Walton Stadium for the first time, she said.
Now three games into the season, Webb is a little more settled in. The feisty freshman defender has started every game.
“I’ve always been a leader for my teams,” Webb said. “I’ve had to work hard at it. I think of myself as a leader. I try to push my team, and they push me.”
“She stays grounded, she works hard, and physically she’s got a left foot and a good pace,” coach Bryan Blitz said of his freshman phenom.
Webb has not only started, she has barely seen the bench. She has played all but 21 minutes in her first four games, playing complete games in two.
“I think that’s where we pushed her,” Blitz said. “In a youth game, she could rule the world genetically, and now she’s dealing with a 22 year old or a senior that is older than her, played three or four years and might be just as fast as her. I think her game fitness is coming more and more and more.”
Webb’s play on the field comes from a long timeline of consistent progress. Coaches first saw Webb’s potential in the preseason, but it wasn’t her physical ability that flipped the switch for Blitz.
“Once we started preseason, she was mentally ready to go,” Blitz said. “That was the first sign. It was never physically in her left foot and in her speed. It was when she was going to choose to be confident and she chose that early.”
The confidence is visible in Webb. You can see it in her steady steps on to the field as starting lineups are called. It’s clear in the way she takes on an attacking forward, bumping and battling until the ball is won. And once that ball is at her feet, Webb does not play around.
Webb’s ability to hang with a running forward and proceed to counter the other way has led to many opportunities on the front line. She has been able to make long runs, sometimes as long as 60 yards, up to the left corner and smack a cross into the box. Webb’s first assist as a Tiger came on one such play late in the 4-0 victory against SEMO on Friday.
“The coaches want me to go up and take space and find some girls,” she said. “So hopefully I can continue to do that for my team.
Webb’s solid play has been vital to Missouri’s young defensive back line, but the young defenseman still has to grow.
“She’s just finding her feet,” Blitz said. “She’s come in prepared, and she’s worked hard.”
As for Webb, she understands that the games will only get harder.
“The SEC is a really hard conference,” she said. “The speed of play is really different. I just have to stay with it and continue to work hard.”