The scoresheet only noticed Andrea Niper at the very end of Women's Soccer's 2014 season, when her first career goal put the nail in Toledo's coffin in the MAC Tournament quarterfinal, and her second put UB to its first-ever MAC Championship game (video above).
Even before that thundering strike, Niper was nothing short of a critical midfielder for the Bulls, one of the most-used subs. On a team that saw no major injuries and used the same starting lineup for nearly 20 games, Niper was next in line behind the starters. In college soccer, any first-half substitutions are unreverse-able until the break, while in the second half they are free and more frequent. Andrea was frequently one of Coach Burke's first moves in the game, and saw more time in the second half despite the flexibility.
Playing time alone isn't the only sign of Niper's importance, though. She's a flexible option in the midfield, usually subbing in for Megan Giesen in the center, but also frequently swapping with Kassidy Kidd or Julia Benati on the wings. Once or twice she took Celina Carrero's spot in the second forward role.
Her only two goals came at the very end of the season, but to focus on those understates her impact: She and Giesen subbed in midway through the first half and completely shifted the tide against St. Bonaventure in the season opener, and had a masterful touch along the sideline that led to UB's tying goal in the comeback regular season win against Ball State.
It wouldn't be crazy to consider Niper for a half-dozen different roles in the 2015 lineup. First, there are multiple open spots in midfield, but that comes with a handful of questions: How much does Moira Petrie insert herself into the central attacking midfield role? Could Niper play a more recessed, defensive role in Mann's spot? (She could certainly bring the physicality.)
Does she prefer a more central role, or the wing, where Kidd and Benati seem already kind of locked in? And finally, could she be more of a forward option? In 2014 she took just as many shots at Carrero despite far fewer minutes, and only Ashley Evans and Track and Field import* Isabella Borini are taller among UB's midfield and forward options?
*I haven't mentioned this yet. Soon.
My best guess is that Andrea works primarily in the central attacking midfield, only in rotation with Petrie instead of Giesen this year. Which one starts and the minutes distribution are up in the air, but it won't be long til we find out. And even if Niper ends up in a clear spot in the new lineup, don't forget that versatility.