On game days, while most of his teammates are listening to pump-up music, Carter Bowers can be found listening to the Disney station on Pandora radio.
“I play better when I listen to that,” said Bowers, the sophomore starting goalkeeper for the Emerson men’s soccer team. “It calms me down.”
Bowers is especially fond of The Lion King classic “Hakuna Matata,” which main characters Timon and Pumba famously translate to mean “no worries” in Swahili.
“Keeper is so tactical and you need to know where you are at all times,” Bowers said. “When you’re calmed down and your mind is so relaxed, you’re like, ‘Alright, this is the decision that needs to be made. I need to go to ground here, I need to come out and get the ball here.’”
That problem-free philosophy has helped thrust Bowers — who hails from the sleepy Portland suburb of Gorham, Maine — to the top of the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference with 72 saves over 13 matches while wearing the No. 1 jersey for the Lions.
He sits 10 saves ahead of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Jeff Wong with only two NEWMAC games remaining — against Clark University and Babson College.
The second-year starter has arguably been the Lions’ most valuable player, and one of the best goalkeepers in the conference during Emerson’s first year in the NEWMAC.
Like many diehards of the sport known as “the beautiful game,” Bowers said his interest in soccer goes beyond Emerson, the college game and even the United States.
“Besides the [Boston] Celtics, Chelsea F.C. is my favorite sports team,” said Bowers, who can often be found wearing his blue Adidas Chelsea track jacket in support of the London-based club. “It’s a big part of my life. I watch every single game.”
Bowers said he “fell in love” with European soccer, especially the English Premiership, after he got hooked on playing the EA Sports FIFA video game series.
“Since then it’s kind of taken off,” Bowers said. “My favorite player in the world is Eden Hazard on Chelsea, and now I will always pay attention to the [English] Premier League until the day I die.”
Now, during the week, Bowers can frequently be found streaming three UEFA Champions’ League matches at once on his computer, often in between classes.
In high school, Bowers was a two-time all-conference basketball and soccer player for Gorham High, which plays in the Southern Maine Activities Association. After being the starting goalie on his team for two years, Bowers realized that he wanted to continue his soccer career in college.
Bowers said several schools recruited him, but he felt Emerson was the best fit.
Emerson men’s soccer head coach Jared Scarpaci said he has noticed significant improvement in Bowers’ play compared to his freshman season starting in net.
“He came back [this year] as a more mature player,” said Sparpaci, now in his 11th season with the Lions. “He’s more technical and tactically aware. He’s keeping a level head, reading the game better, and is in the right place now, rather than diving into the right place.”
Junior center back Pat Lowndes said that Bowers’ consistency and in-goal presence has improved significantly since 2012.
“There was a dramatic change this year,” Lowndes said. “It’s too bad that it doesn’t show up on the scoreboard. He’s challenging a lot of balls and comes out of [goal] a lot more, which is great for us. He’s much more vocal and consistent.”
Lowndes said he wasn’t surprised to hear that Bowers leads the NEWMAC in saves.
“We gave up way too many shots in early NEWMAC games and we were in those games because of Carter,” Lowndes said. “I’m very confident with him as our keeper going forward.”
Tim Hardy was Bowers’ high school teammate and is now a senior starter in goal for Gordon College, located in Wenham, Mass., which plays out of the Commonwealth Coast Conference.
Bowers described Hardy as a mentor.
“I don’t think it’s surprising because of his work ethic and his athletic ability,” said Hardy on his former understudy’s breakout season. “He always put the team first.”
For what it’s worth, Bowers said, if he could, he’d trade those saves for a few more wins.
“I’m proud of that and it’s nice to get recognition, but I’d rather be seeing less shots and winning more games,” Bowers said. “The guys around me, especially the back four, don’t get enough credit.”
In the past 14 matches, men’s soccer is 6-8 and has lost all five NEWMAC matches, but Bowers said this season has been important for the Lions’ development.
“This year has been tough, but getting this exposure now is going to be huge for us,” Bowers said. “We really need to focus on the competition we will be facing next year.”
The men’s soccer team might not yet have “no worries,” but with Bowers a rock in net, the Lions are one step closer to being competitive in the NEWMAC.
Burton can be reached at email@example.com.