Grant's Winning Ways Enhance Blue Demons
CHICAGO - Chelsea Grant has this thing about winning.
Perhaps it's because the Blue Demon freshman defender grew up playing on a youth soccer powerhouse named Eclipse Select that won a national title last year.
Grant also has this thing about losing.
"I absolutely hate losing, and I'll do anything I can to prevent a loss," said Grant, who was named to the BIG EAST Honor Roll this week after scoring the winning goal in Sunday's 1-0 victory over Cincinnati at Wish Field.
"I especially hate losing when you didn't play up to your potential and that let the other team win."
Grant hopes to be at her Honor Roll-best this weekend for DePaul's BIG EAST road trip to Pittsburgh on Friday night and West Virginia on Sunday.
Pittsburgh is 5-2-3 overall and 0-0-3 in the BIG EAST and is led by freshman forward Ashley Cuba who has 15 points on six goals and three assists. She is tied for third in the league in goals and tied for fifth in points.
Junior goalkeeper Morie Kephart has only given up five goals in 10 games and has set a school single-season record with six shutouts. Her 0.47 goals-against average is fourth in the BIG EAST and her 56 saves is tied for second.
Pitt has outscored its opponents 13-5, has a 19-5 advantage in assists and has outpointed the opposition 45-15.
West Virginia (4-3-4, 1-1-1) features goalkeeper Kerri Butler who has given up just seven goals in 11 matches for a 0.60 goals-against average with four shutouts. The Mountaineers have upset then-No. 5 Penn State 2-1, tied then-No. 9 Virginia 1-1 and lost to then-No. 25 Brigham Young 1-0 in overtime.
"Coming here, I expected to win---even though I knew DePaul didn't have a winning tradition," Grant said. "The other freshmen that came in with me like Claire Hanold and Kelly Blumberg---we're all used to winning.
"Like our coach, Erin Chastain, says, this is definitely our turnaround year. We're still undefeated at home after 12 games. That's a huge accomplishment."
These Blue Demons are 7-3-2 compared to the record of 17-49-7 compiled from 2005-08. With an offense sparked by Tara Strickland, Lauren Pagone and Blumberg, DePaul has already scored 17 goals compared to the 16 that were scored all last season.
Thus far, the Blue Demons have outpointed their opposition 47-34. Last year, opponents held a 120-43 advantage.
Along with the offensive upgrade, DePaul has benefitted from seven shutouts. The next shutout goalkeeper Hanold records will set a school record.
"Claire is having such a great season," Grant said. "We want to break the school record and keep on breaking it. We don't want to stop at eight shutouts."
Chastain had a pretty good idea what she was getting in Grant.
"When I recruited Chelsea, my expectations were really high for the kind of impact she could bring as a freshman," Chastain said. "She is doing a great job of embracing that role.
"She is a tremendous athlete and competitor, and any soccer coach in the country would want Chelsea on his or her team.
"Chelsea is as tough as nails back there. She has blocked shots, prevented services, intercepted passes and had solid clearances. She plays with a lot of confidence because she has had so much success at the youth level."
It has been a seamless transition for Grant into a back line of senior captain Dominique Locascio, junior Janina Locascio (Dominique's sister) and sophomore Beth Perry.
"I love our back line," Grant said. "I'm the new one, and I was so nervous at the beginning of the season. I had been playing with my club teammates the last eight years, and now I was playing with all new people.
"But they have made it easy for me to fit in."
Grant felt an immediate connection to her captain.
"Dom and I are like twins," Grant said. "We're like the same person. Maybe it's because we're both center backs, but we make the same move at the exact same time on the field.
"We both have the same sense of humor, and it seems like we have so much in common. There are times when I'll text her something that she was just about to text me. I totally look up to her."
Chastain will be looking for Grant to anchor the back line when Locascio graduates.
"I'm excited about having Chelsea as a fixture back there for three more years," said the Blue Demons coach. "In the Missouri game (1-0 victory over the then-No. 11 Tigers), she helped us contain a dynamic front line. On Sunday, she went on the attack and scored the winning goal.
"She plays hard every day in training. She tackles hard. Everything Chelsea does is all-out. To her, every game is a battle, and she is ready to be tested."