By Jim Sullivan
---- — He’s a mild-mannered Newburyport High School student who becomes a pit bull in the net.
Shudee Wu has never had it easy getting to the No. 1 goalie position for the Port boys soccer team. For the past two years, the job has been taken by predecessor and co-captain Matt Canning. And once Wu became a senior, the job seemed to be going to heir apparent sophomore Andrew Allman. But Allman suffered a back injury a week before the season was to begin, and suddenly it was Wu time against North Reading on the Clippers’ opening day.
“He stepped up,” Clippers coach Shawn Bleau said of Wu last Wednesday. “I expected him to be solid and ready. I didn’t expect him to be exceptional.”
In fact, Bleau called Wu’s 15 saves against the Hornets one of the five best performances he has seen in net.
“He controlled his box and that is his strong point,” said Bleau. “He took away eight, nine dangerous plays just by coming off his line and grabbing those balls. It makes you nervous as a coach. But he did what he had to protect his goal. I don’t think I’ve seen a game where goalies come out that much and he did an excellent job of it.”
Wu was everywhere, popping out of his net almost as much as he was in it and making spectacular stops, play after play.
“It’s what I expected to do and what I want to do,” said Wu. “I want to be able to do my job out there and translate my aggressiveness from practice into a game and (against North Reading) was the first time that everything came together for that to happen.”
Both Wu and Allman worked with soccer goalie and coach Rick Heartquist over the summer and Heartquist stressed aggressiveness.
“It was definitely something I had to work at,” Wu said of his ferocity in the box. “Coming into this year, it was one of the biggest points of improvement that I had. (Heartquist) really worked me and Andrew on that and I knew that it was something I needed to step up from last year. It’s something that I had to work really hard at. I don’t think I’m a naturally aggressive person.”
Wu has been playing soccer since U6 but never took it seriously until his freshman year in high school when he decided to go out for the freshman team.
“At that point (goalie) wasn’t that serious a position,” said Wu. “You just put on the pinnie and get in the goal.”
He liked being in net and kept at it, backing up Canning and always being ready to step in at a moment’s notice.
“His work ethic has been great in practices,” said Bleau. “And that has carried over.”
Wu has always had to look over his shoulder, but he believes that has made him want the job more.
“The main thing that drives me and Andrew to get better is that competition,” said Wu. “It’s always unspoken and we never talk about who is going to start the next game, but we always push each other. It’s great that he has been there so I know where I can get better and maybe he knows where he can get better as well. Every improvement that you make is a necessity to keep your starting spot.”
Wu, who is thinking of studying pre-med in college next year, stresses the North Reading tilt was only one game. It’s a long season ahead and anything can still happen with the biggest position on the pitch.
“Being a goalie, I’m only as good as my defense,” said Wu. “Goalie is always the last line of defense. But really in terms of importance, you can’t really quantify that as the most important. But, certainly, combined with the defense, it creates an important part.”