Nothing but net: Women’s basketball player becomes dual-sport athlete


Junior goalkeeper Ava Salti is also a guard on the women’s basketball team. (Courtesy: Kayla Buck)

By Leo Kagan, Assistant Sports Editor

For Ava Salti, sports are everything—more obsession than pastime. 


With a quick glance into her dorm room, you’d notice a New York Islanders and Golden State Warriors jersey hanging on either side of her bed. Several more jerseys hang in her closet. If you talk to her for a moment or two, you’ll feel her passion for sports oozing into every word she says. 


That’s why it’s no surprise that Salti, a junior sports communication major and shooting guard for Emerson women’s basketball team, is taking on a second sport this fall, committing to the women’s soccer team as its newest goalkeeper. 


Originally, the women’s team anticipated two new keepers for the fall season, explained  women’s soccer Head Coach David Suvak. However, the summer saw both verbal commits drop the Lions, leaving the team keeper-less late into the recruiting process and scrambling for a replacement. 


“My assistant and I started looking at the other female rosters here within the athletic department,” Suvak said, “to see if there was anybody who had goalkeeper experience. Ava popped up and we decided we would ask her if she would be interested to come out and play soccer.”


For Salti, the decision was a no-brainer. 


“I got a call from my basketball coach,” Salti said. “We were talking about basketball and he was like, ‘The women’s soccer coach called me about you,’ and he didn’t need to say anything else. Right on the spot, I was like, ‘I’m in.’”


Salti played goalkeeper in youth soccer, but due to a rule change enforced by the U.S. Soccer Federation—which required that teams be composed of players all born in the same calendar year—was forced off her childhood team. 


“It just so happened that they called me up to varsity basketball that season,” she said. “So I just rolled with basketball and sort of left out soccer.”


Now, things are coming full circle as Salti joins the Emerson team as the second keeper, fulfilling her childhood desires.  


“This is what you dream about,” she said. “12-year-old me would be freaking out knowing that I’m playing two sports [in college].”


Her transition back into the net was smooth, according to Suvak, specifically in the technical aspect. 


“[Assistant coach Colin Connolly] spends time working with our goalkeepers on a range of skills,” Suvak said. “Colin has been working with her to bring her back to pace and she has been excelling at those things.”


However, joining the team hasn’t come without its fair share of challenges. While some skills came back quickly, Salti still finds herself working to improve others. 


“The biggest challenge is passing with my feet,” she said. “My hands and saving stuff came back the easiest because I catch balls in basketball. The diving, slowly that’s come back as well but the play with my feet […] when we do possession drills, I’m like, ‘Sorry in advance, everyone.’”


One challenge Salti didn’t have to face, however, was that of joining a team full of unfamiliar faces. 


“Joining a new team where everybody’s close is never something that you necessarily look forward to,” she said. “It’s gonna take time to get integrated. But I was already hanging out with [the team] regardless, even though I was on the basketball team.”


Salti is close with a number of players on the soccer team, including junior forward Brittney Righetti, who says that she’s enjoyed getting to play with Salti. 


“It’s been really fun to play with her,” Righetti said. “I would always go to her basketball games and she used to come to every soccer game last year. To have her on the sideline with me and the whole team, it’s been really great.”


According to Righetti, Salti is dual parts motivator and comedian. 


“She gives us a lot of comedic relief,” Righetti said. “She’s a very funny player. She’s also really great at motivating our team, building us up, and being very positive. Before games she’s like ‘This is our home, let’s bring it to them.’”


Salti has also grown close with sophomore Amara Schaub, the team’s starting goalkeeper. Schaub says that she likes having another goalie to push her in practice. 


“You should never be comfortable in your position,” she said. “You always want to be better.”


Suvak believes this competition is important and feels Salti is fitting into her role well. 


“She’s playing an important role as a second goalkeeper on this team,” Suvak said. “She is a natural leader and she’s vocal about what she thinks should be happening for the team. She can get the team very excited and pretty pumped up.”


Her teammates and coaches may call her a motivator and a locker room presence, but Salti thinks of herself purely as a competitor. 


“I just want to help the team win,” she said. “We’re gonna go pretty far if we all buy in, and I think we’re all bought in.”