Some soccer players love the high they get from scoring a goal. Others prefer the satisfaction of keeping them out of the net. Hanna Benben gets a kick out of both— so much so that the Villa Duchense senior splits her time between the forward line and the goal line this spring. “It really depends on the game,” says Benben, who was primarily a goalie until venturing up top her sophomore season. “If it is a game where I’m going to face a lot of shots, I want to be in the nets.
If not, I’d rather be looking to score. Whatever is more exciting.” There has been plenty of excitement this spring for Benben and the Saints, the No. 4 ranked team in the STLhighschoolsports.com small-schools soccer rankings. Villa (12-5-2), the No. 2 seed in the first round of Class 2 District 5 action, was scheduled to face No. 3 seed MICDS earlier this week.
A Villa victory—the Saints beat MICDS 1-0 earlier this season—would have put them into the championship game on Wednesday against either top seed Visitation or Westminster. (The game was played after Ladue News press time.)
Thanks in large part to Benben, Villa continued to improve throughout the season. “She’s been my comfort zone for four years,” Villa coach Tim Twellman says. “She has been a leader at both ends of the field.”
The Creve Coeur resident’s career as a keeper began in the fifth grade when she volunteered to play the position with her J.B. Marine squad. “I really don’t know why, but I liked it for some reason,” Benben says of playing goalie. “Maybe it was the fact that you didn’t have to run a lot.”
She continued in the nets as a freshman at Villa. But during a game when her team was way ahead and she wasn’t getting much action, Benben asked Twellman if she could play forward. “I was kind of getting bored back there,” Benben says. “He (Twellman) put me in the field and I loved it.”
Twellman kept Benben in goal in all but two games. The following season, she got a few more field opportunities. Then last season, she spent half of Villa’s games in the field.
Entering this past week, Benben had been in goal for just six games and had a 2- 3-1 record with a 1.07 goals against average. Villa’s other goalie, senior Andrea Hermann, was 10-2-1 with a 1.19 goals against average.
This season, Benben’s biggest impact has been on offense. She led the club in game-winning goals (6) and was tied for the team-high with classmate Megan Hilleman in goals scored (10). “She is one of the top goalies in the state,” Twellman says of Benben, who has signed to play at Saint Louis University, where she has been accepted into the nursing program. “But she also is a very valuable field player who has given us a lift with her offense.”
Benben has teamed up with Hilleman and sophomores Anne Marie Murphy and Gabbie Menendez to give the Saints plenty of scoring punch. Twellman says the team’s scoring is up from a year ago and its goals against are down.
When the Saints’ season ends, Benben gets a little time off before she heads to goalie training to get ready for Saint Louis University, where she reports on Aug. 1. She was recruited by then-coach Tim Champion, but since then Champion has been replaced by Katherine ‘Kat’ Mertz, who was hired on Feb. 3. “I know there is a senior goalie returning,” Benben says, “and another who was recruited from California. I knew I wanted to play close to home, so I’m looking forward to being there.”
Who knows? If things get a little crowded in the nets, Benben could end up helping SLU in the field. “She’s been a valuable player for us,” Twellman says. “She’s one of the best athletes Villa has ever produced.”