The Oswego State women’s soccer team is 3-1-0, and they have a 5-foot-3-inch freshman to thank for that.
Freshman forward Michelle Bateman took the field this year with her mind racing and her heart pounding. Unlike many other nervous rookies, she was celebrating a mere 22 seconds later after scoring her first collegiate goal.
"It was a trashy little goal," Bateman said. "Kassie Kleine chested the ball into the crossbar and I got the rebound and just kind of put it in."
This came as a big relief to Bateman because without that goal this season could be very different. Luckily, that one moment unlocked a flood of confidence that has shown in the form of eight goals in the first four games.
Bateman’s soccer career began at the age of five when she began playing Fulton Youth Soccer, a program in which volunteers teach young players the basics of soccer. She didn’t really like it off the bat, but her dad kept her going until her passion for the sport became evident.
Bateman was raised with three brothers, two of which were older and all of which played soccer. Add the fact that her dad was, and still is, a soccer enthusiast and the Batemans are a prototypical soccer family.
"My brothers really got me into it," Bateman said. "I actually played with my younger brother, Derek, until I was 12."
As time progressed, Bateman continued getting better and better. She made the varsity soccer team for G. Ray Bodley High School in Fulton as an eighth-grader. She wasn’t just playing because there was a lack of talent in the school, though. The year before she joined the team the Fulton girls had won the Sectional Championship. Still, Bateman came onto the team and started immediately.
"It was really intimidating to be out there at first," Bateman said, demonstrating her shy demeanor. "I was only about 4-feet-10-inches tall."
With such a small frame she struggled her first season, scoring only a pair of goals. Both goals came in the same game against Corcoran High School, which was near the midway point of the season. This performance kept her spirits high and she would only improve from there. She still received a lot of playing time, which would help her mightily in her progression as a soccer player.
Bateman awed fans and opposing coaches with her play on the soccer field during her time at G. Ray Bodley High School in Fulton. She was a First-Team All-League selection all four years and was named to the Syracuse Post-Standard’s All-Central New York girls’ soccer team. During her five years on the team she totaled 61 goals and 41 assists, including 18 goals and 14 assists in her senior season. This also led to her being selected as the Most Valuable Player by her coach at the year-end awards banquet.
She also played basketball and lacrosse in high school. Surprisingly, she was recognized more for her accomplishments in lacrosse than for those in soccer. She was named an Academic-All-American for her work in the classroom and her impressive play at the midfielder position. But in the end, she chose soccer over lacrosse.
"I didn’t really enjoy lacrosse," Bateman said. "My coach tried to get me to play at Oswego, but it’s not for me."
With all of her free time being spent on fields and courts, Bateman never really found the time to get into the professional game. Although she did enjoy watching Mia Hamm lead the U.S. women’s soccer team to the World Cup in 1999, she said that she never really drew inspiration from them.
Another thing that she has strayed from is having a pre-game ritual. Most players have their own way to either pump themselves up or calm themselves down before the game. Bateman, on the other hand, just gets on the field and plays her game.
But soccer cannot be won individually; it takes a team effort. Bateman has found herself getting along great with all the players on the team.
"I love the girls," Bateman said. "They’ve all been equally helpful."
Team bonding has been a big theme for the first couple weeks of the season. Some team events have given the players a chance to interact off the field, hopefully leading to some communication on the field.
Head coach Brian McGrane has never had a problem saying what he needs to from the sideline. When asked how she felt about McGrane’s very vocal coaching style, Bateman had no complaints to offer. She is comfortable hearing about the flaws in her game, a humble approach for such a young player.
"I could talk a little more out on the field," Bateman said. "And I’m not the best shooter, I tend to dribble around the goalie and just kind of tap it in."
Although many spectators may disagree with her assessment of her ability to shoot, the quiet 18-year-old girl finds some comfort in picking at her own game. She knows she has the speed and smarts to make things happen. And as for the voice and shot, give it time. She’s only a freshman.