Belmont's Brace turns the calendar
One year later, Belmont goalkeeper Kaleb Brace reflects on injury with an eye towards the future
|Belmont junior goalkeeper Kaleb Brace takes a goal kick during action against Franklin last week. Brace is back after missing the second half of last season with a hand injury. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)|
September 12, 2011BELMONT – Things have changed dramatically for Kaleb Brace in just one short year.
Midway through last fall's soccer season, the Belmont High School goalkeeper was really coming into his own. Just a sophomore, Brace was a rock between the Red Raider pipes, and the team's hopes of making a deep postseason run seemed within reach.
That all changed during a Homecoming game at Gilford however, as Brace dove to make a save on a breakaway. With just five minutes left in the contest, the keeper's season came to a crashing halt.
"I dove to my left and just completely landed wrong on my hand," recalled Brace. "It was one of those freak things that never happens. My hand just hit the ground and my upper body landed on it."
When Brace arrived at the hospital, the news was devastating.
"I just remember being there and once they told me what was wrong, it was just shattering news," he said.
In the midst of a stellar season, the young goalie had fractured two metacarpal bones in his hand. He wouldn't be back to the Raider lineup.
"Once they told me about the injury, I knew my season was over," Brace said. "For me, that just killed me."
While Belmont coach Mike Foley wasn't sure how serious the injury was right away, the loss of his starting keeper was a harsh blow.
"We didn't know initially but once we found out the extent of it, that changed fundamentally what we did as a team the rest of the way," Foley admitted. "We were playing a certain formation and because of Kaleb, we could play that formation. We did a lot of nice things the rest of the season as a team but when you lose a kid who is the anchor of your team, it's hard to replace that."
Brace watched from the sidelines as his team made the postseason but lost to Prospect Mountain, 2-0, in the first round.
"That was probably one of the hardest things I've had to go through because I'd do anything for these guys," he explained. "Just having to sit there and not be able to contribute, that was just so tough."
But once the hand started healing, Brace was able to participate in basketball and baseball during the school year, and he came into preseason ready to take his familiar spot in the Belmont net this fall.
"Being able to play again this year was just phenomenal," he admitted. "At the beginning of the season, I didn't feel comfortable at all being back there. But now I'm starting to get that feel back."
The results tell a different story however, as Brace and Belmont came out fast from the get-go, winning three of the season's first four games. The lone loss in that span was a 1-0 barnburner to Division III power Berlin.
"Early on to have him playing, it allows me to not have to worry about certain things," said Foley. "And I think he showed that against Berlin in a 1-0 game. He kept us in that game with great save after great save. That's what he's going to do for us, there's going to be close games that he's going to keep us in the mix."
Now a junior captain, Brace admits he still has some flashbacks when making dangerous plays in the penalty box from time to time.
"I definitely still have some thoughts when I'm coming out, especially when I'm diving, of that moment," he said, just minutes after helping his team to an 8-1 win over Franklin. "But I just have to try not to think about it because then I might not play the same and that'll end up hurting the team."
Back in net, the confidence in Brace is evident throughout the Belmont lineup, as the Raiders have rallied around their last line of defense. He responded by allowing just three goals against in his first four outings.
"With Kaleb in net, it's automatic, it's an instant trust," explained Foley. "They know what they're going to get from him each game. And he's really added to his forte this year, he can throw the ball 50-55 yards. That's a weapon. We really like that a lot."
And now back amongst his teammates, Brace has his sights focused on the future, and getting his team another shot at postseason glory.
"It's great," he said, pausing briefly when asked about being back on the field. "It's really hard to describe how it feels to play with these guys again. I see so much potential for our team this year. There's definitely things we still need to work on but each day it looks like we're getting better and better. I really think we can make a deep playoff run if we put it all together."
A fresh start with an optimistic view for the future.