Anyone who has ever been around soccer knows that goalkeepers are a different breed of player. They're the last line of defense, one game-saving stop away from being either a hero or a scapegoat.
To excel at the position requires a mixture of icy-cold composure, bullish determination, and perhaps a dash of despotism, a willingness to take the reins and command your team.
Georgia senior goalkeeper and Co-captain Michelle Betos may do just that for the Bulldogs, but she wasn't always the fearless net minder she is today. The Flushing N.Y. native who hails from a Greek family got her start playing the game at the urging of her father, who played goalkeeper at the semi-pro level in Greece.
"He was just really athletic, so just early on I always wanted to play sports," Betos said. "My mom's also really athletic too, so I was just a little tomboy growing up."
Betos started playing the game at age 5, but how exactly she ended up in goal makes for some good comedy, and is a story that she is not shy about sharing.
"I figured out early on that I could have pockets in my shorts and keep some Skittles in them, and that's literally how I started playing goalie. I didn't want to run and then I realized that I could just have some candy during the game," Betos said.
For Betos, playing a position that could be accurately compared to standing in a pressure cooker, she exhibits a calmness that is hard to come by.
"I think that in the goal is where I get to be the most myself, you know just loud and kind of protecting the people that I care about," Betos said.
Going into this weekend, Betos is second all-time at Georgia in shutouts (20) and wins (36), and last season, allowed a stingy 0.61 goals per game in SEC regular season play, good enough for tops among SEC keepers who started all 11 games.
Georgia Head Coach Patrick Baker weighed in on Betos, whom he considers tops among SEC goalkeepers. To Baker, it's Betos' mentality in goal that sets her apart from her peers.
"She relishes [the pressure]. If anything, she's like, 'Bring it on, beat me if you can,' and if you do beat her once. she'll say, 'Well, you were lucky and you can't beat me again,'" Baker said. "It's just a refreshing attitude to have."
Betos, typically humble, begs to differ.
"I don't always know how I measure up talent-wise to anybody else, but I'd be surprised to find somebody that loved it much more than I do," she said.
As the Bulldogs take on Florida Atlantic tonight, her teammates know that Betos is the vocal leader of the team, and commands the 18-yard box with an authority that instills confidence in all of her teammates.
"If anything or anybody is in [the 18-yard box], she owns it," Baker said. "It's a confidence that not only she has, but I think our players and especially our back four have, that when they run around and through the box to defend, they know that they've got a great player in between the sticks to take care of anything that may come her way."