A Noble Task: Junior Looks To Solidify KU Soccer

Oct. 8, 2009


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Caitlin Noble has all the tools to be a dominant force on the soccer field. At 5-foot-9, the junior towers above most of the competition, boasting speed and strength few can match. Noble is skillful too, combining deft foot skills with the ability to play almost anywhere on the field.

Ironically, it’s that versatility that kept Noble from seeing much of the field after she transferred to Kansas from Indiana State halfway through her freshman season. She had the skills and physical abilities to shine but no obvious position in which to take advantage of them.

“When I first got here, I really didn’t have a position,” Noble said. “I played midfield all my life, and there were a lot here when I got here. And so then they (the coaching staff) figured my attacking sense would come out so they put me at forward.”

The move seemed logical at the time. Noble had scored four goals and contributed three assists as a central midfielder during her short stint as a Sycamore. She also scored 32 goals her senior season at Olathe East High School in Olathe, Kan., and was named All-State, All-Metro and All-Johnson County four times.

But the transition didn’t go exactly as planned. Noble barely saw the field as a sophomore, appearing in 17 matches but logging only 223 minutes of action with no goals or assists. So, once again, Kansas Head Coach Mark Francis began searching for a place on the field that the team could take advantage of Noble’s skills and physical ability.

Similar to the transition made by senior Kim Boyer, Francis decided Noble might be best used as an attack-minded defender where she could use all her skills to the fullest extent and also have a better chance to play.

“We knew Caitlin had the physical capabilities to play in the back,” Francis said. “We played her there last spring, trained her and coached her a little bit in that position because in the spring you have more time. She picked it up very quickly.”

So quickly that Noble stepped in and has started the Jayhawks’ first five games this season at left back. She’s still finding a comfort zone, but Noble said playing alongside senior defender Estelle Johnson has helped her adapt to a new position and mentality. Through 13 games in 2009, Noble has already played 744 minutes, started seven games and doesn’t seem likely to return to a sparing role off the bench anytime soon.

“I’ve become a different player than I was last year,” Noble said. “I’m much more confident and that’s increasing the amount of time I play on the field.”

Oddly enough, Noble’s familiarity playing forward has come in handy for Kansas during Big 12 Conference play. With injuries and suspensions limiting player selection, Noble has started the Jayhawks’ last two games as a forward, scoring two goals last weekend in games against conference powers Texas A&M and Texas.

Noble, for her part, just wants to play, something that’s never guaranteed on a Kansas team with so much depth and talent at every position. For now it isn’t clear where that playing time will come. Noble has a newfound passion for defense, but three goals and an assist in only seven starts suggest she is ready to make her mark anywhere on the field.

“Everybody on the team puts in so much hard work and there is so much competition for playing time at any position,” Noble explained. “It’s nice to feel that the hard work I’m putting in is starting to pay off.”

Noble and the Jayhawks will be in action this weekend, taking on Texas Tech and Colorado at the Jayhawk Soccer Complex. KU will face the Red Raiders Friday at 4 p.m., and complete the weekend with CU Sunday at 1 p.m.