Modest and soft-spoken, Noah Cohen ’14 does not give the impression that he is one of the Dartmouth men’s soccer team’s biggest assets. Cohen, however, has been instrumental to the team’s success this season as the starting goaltender, ranking near the top of the Ivy League in categories including saves, shutouts and saves per game.
Cohen, who is from Johannesberg, South Africa, said soccer has been part of his life for almost as long as he can remember. He began playing the sport with his father and brother when he was four or five years old, and was playing for a high-level club team by the time he was a teenager, he said. “My whole family loves soccer,” Cohen said. “In South Africa, where I’m from, soccer is the big sport. I’ve grown up with it and never had to choose between many other sports.”
Cohen said he has continued to work hard to improve his game since arriving at Dartmouth last fall.
“If I can, I try and touch the ball every single day, one way or another,” Cohen said, adding that he plays as much as possible in the offseason.
Men’s soccer co-captain Lucky Mkosana ’12 and head coach Jeff Cook attributed Cohen’s success to his intense work ethic.
“I’ve known Noah for like a year and a half,” Mkosana said. “I’ve had to work out with him and he really works hard. He stays after practices and I think it’s paid off for him.”
Cook also cited Noah’s passion for the game as a reason for his success.
“I think Noah loves to train,” Cook said. “He is very serious about the game and always shows a great determination to improve.”
While Cohen is a technically skilled goalie, Mkosana and Cook both said Cohen’s instincts and competitiveness are his two best qualities as a player.
“Everyone believes in him and it’s good to have a goalie you have confidence in,” Mkosana said. “We know we have to play hard for him, and having someone like that gives energy to the team.”
Noah’s foot skills in the box are also assets in some of the team’s more precarious situations during games, Mkosana said.
“I think this helps a lot since not a lot of goalies can have quick feet and play inside like regular players,” Mkosana said.
Cohen attributed his success to taking each game as it comes and addressing weaknesses when they present themselves.
“I focus on winning the next game instead of looking to the end-of-season goals of winning the Ivy League and making the NCAA tournament,” he said. “I try and improve on my weaknesses. If I made a mistake the week before, I try and incorporate it into practice next week so it doesn’t happen again.”
Cohen’s individual success has also helped the team, which has won six of its last seven games. Dartmouth (7-4-2, 3-1-0 Ivy) is currently tied for second place in the League, trailing only Cornell University.
Mkosana pointed to Cohen’s ability to inspire his teammates as a reason for the Big Green’s recent success.
“He has really stepped it up,” Mkosana said. “He’s trying to make sure that we defend as a team and defend him in the goal.”
Cook added that when Cohen makes big saves early in a game as he has done on multiple occasions this season it allows the Big Green to stay competitive even if it is struggling offensively.
“He’s been instrumental this year I feel, because in virtually every game he’s made at least one big save.” Cook said. “Noah has been absolutely critical and has really performed well.”
Although Cohen is only in his second season as a member of the Big Green, he has already taken on a leadership role. Cook said Cohen’s assertiveness is a “big plus” for the team.
“He’s not afraid to talk from his position and leads during the game very impressively,” Cook said. “Noah has earned the respect and confidence of his teammates.”
Mkosana lauded Cohen’s character and said he is easy to get along with both on and off the field. Cook added that Cohen has opened up this year.
“Initially he was very quiet and reserved,” Cook said. “As he has gotten more accustomed to the team, he has shown his great sense of humor and lively personality.”
Modest in the face of compliments, Cohen credited the dedication of Dartmouh’s coaching staff which Cohen said facilitates offseason workouts for players as the reason for the Big Green’s strong record this season.
“They give us training programs and help us out with whatever we need,” Cohen said. “It’s easy to keep in shape and stay sharp.”
He added that the Big Green’s two other goalies, Sean Donovan ’13 and Kevin O’Brien ’12, push him to be a better player during practice.
“Goalkeeper coach [Matt] Cosinuke has worked well with all three goalkeepers,” Cook said. “We have confidence in all three, even though Noah plays all the minutes. I give credit to those guys and their attitudes as well.”
Dartmouth plays next at Harvard University on Saturday at 4 p.m.