Kiley Baran stood in the team huddle before the first overtime. Her coaches were trying to figure out who was going to go in goal after both of their goalies went down with injuries. Baran decided that she would step in as the emergency sub. She proceeded to hold the game to a draw in her first time playing goal since her sophomore year of high school. Baran was named the starter for the rest of the season and after winning the NAC, was named the NAC Tournament MVP.
Aaron Parker spent the offseason between his sophomore and junior year practicing his kicking and punts on a baseball field at home. The coaches told him he needed to work on his kicking before his junior year and his response was practice, practice, practice. It worked, and in his junior season, he earned a starting spot. Now in his senior year, Parker has become a force in goal for the Spartans as they won the NAC. He was named the NAC Tournament MVP.
While their journeys to this point may seem drastically different, what has allowed them to succeed on those journeys is the same. Quality character, good coaching, and a lot of hard work, has enabled the two of them to be the MVP’s that they are today.
If you talk to anyone who has ever worked with Parker, you’re going to hear a lot of the same stuff.
“He’s a guy that if you tell him he needs to do something he’ll do it right away, you don’t need to ask him twice,” said Amir Pasic, the men’s team’s grad assistant who also played with Parker two years ago, “He’s a really good person to be around in general, a real team first kind of guy, never toots his own horn, and always gives somebody else credit before himself.”
As for Baran, her coaching staff has nothing but positive remarks on her character as well. “She’s like a general back there, directs the game really well, she just a tremendous kid overall too. Great student. Just a great human being. You couldn’t really ask for more,” women’s head coach Chris Chapdelaine said.
Those qualities have played a large part in helping to mold Parker and Baran into well-seasoned players, although their coaches have played a large part as well.
“She’s helped a lot,” said Baran about her goalie coach, Jamie Trayer “Whether it be just boosting my confidence, or just telling me you got the next save or we’re not going to try and change everything about you, we’re going to work with what you bring to the table and fine tune what you can do naturally.”
Trayer said she had to work with Baran more on getting comfortable and learning the fundamentals than anything else. “Once she got the hang of the footwork it all started to fall in place, again, she’s naturally athletic so catching a ball was never the issue, it was increasing her reaction time,” Trayer said.
Similarly, Pasic, who is the current goalie coach for the men’s team, has been a heavy influence with Parker.
“I credit Amir and I credit Aaron particularly. I think being able to train with Amir and all the things that Amir is really good at, Aaron has become really good at,” said head coach John O’Connor.
Parker himself attributes a lot of his success this season to being able to work with Pasic on a regular basis. “It’s crazy honestly to think how far we’ve come being players together and him now being my coach, and it’s really remarkable working with him,” Parker said.
He also praised his backup, freshman Alex Fernald, for pushing him every day.
Although much of the success needs to be attributed to Parker himself. “He took the time in the off season to really develop himself. When we told him his kicking had to get better, he took a bag of balls and kicked every single day,” said coach O’Connor.
Baran and Parker both had very successful college careers and are elated to be able to finish off their careers here at CU with a NAC conference victory. The NAC tournament MVP was just icing on the cake. But when people remember the two of them in the future, they’re going to remember a lot more than just their victories on the field.
“I’ve worked with a ton of goal keepers throughout my career, but I’ve never had a player have as much of an impact on me,” Trayer said.