Who Will Win Wide-Open USA Goalie Competition?
|The New York Lizards' Drew Adams
is one of eight goaltenders in a wide-open competition for spots on
the 2014 U.S. men's national team.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
BALTIMORE -- It's a wide-open goalie competition for the 2014 U.S. men's national team, as evidenced by the fact that Hall of Fame goalie Brian Dougherty, the man between the pipes for the last world championships in 2010, is on the sideline at this weekend's Team USA tryouts as an evaluator and coach, instead of barking out instructions to defenseman from the crease.
"A little added pressure with Doc on the sideline," the New York Lizards' Drew Adams said of Dougherty, who has been a long-time mentor to Adams coming out of the Philadelphia area.
There are eight of the world's best goalies in the running for the starting and backup nods for the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships next summer in Denver.
Seven are at the tops of their profession in Major League Lacrosse -- Adams, Jordan Burke (Boston Cannons), John Galloway (Rochester Rattlers), Adam Ghitelman (Charlotte Hounds), Brett Queener (Hamilton Nationals) and Jesse Schwartzman (Denver Outlaws) -- and the other, Penn State's Austin Kaut, is the reigning collegiate goaltender of the year.
All of them took turns playing halves during tryouts Saturday at Goucher College in north Baltimore. The task entailed directing the game's best defenders in front of them while attempting to stop shots from an unmatched collection of offensive talent. And it was prudent to stay consistent while doing all that.
"Every one of the eight goalies here has the potential to make this team," Galloway said. "You could see it game in and game out. No one is giving up easy shots. It's who is going to steal one? It's been really impressive."
Galloway led all goalies Saturday morning with nine saves in his half of work, but each brought their own skill set to the table. Ghitelman, for example, barked out loud instructions in the morning's opening game, making sure all the pieces in front of him were organized and prepared. He finished with four saves, as did Kaut in his time. Adams made six stops and Turner five.
Galloway had Dougherty as his coach for the morning session, and the man they call "Doc" wasn't even the only former Team USA goalie holding a coaching capacity for the weekend. Former U.S. keeper Trevor Tierney is coach of one of the four scrimmage teams as well. Vermont coach Ryan Curtis and Towson coach Shawn Nadelen, a 2010 Team USA member, are the others. The rosters of each team have been tinkered throughout the weekend as the coaches seek to evaluate 90-plus players and make cuts down to 46 after tryouts conclude Sunday. The final 23-man roster will be named in January.
There is one significant rules adjustment for this set of eight netminders. Under international rules, which are being used this weekend, there is no 20-second timer to clear the ball across the midline. That has changed up the clearing procedure.
"We're all so conditioned to get the ball up and out," Ghitelman said. "Now we have as much time as we need. We can come back over the midfield line. It should be easier, but we have to just break our conditioning, knowing we can take our time and find where the attackmen and midfielders are."
Turner, of the Bayhawks, concurred. He also said particular adjustments are needed on man-down clears, when the goalies might take more of a ball control role, run around and kill time on the defensive end.
"You don't have to push it as much," Turner said in general of the adjustment. "You don't have to force anything although you still want to take transition if it's there."
In all, the goalie competition is certainly on.
"You try to not to get so nervous. That's easier said than done," Galloway said. "It feels like the first day back in college. You're stomach gets kind of tight but after a couple shots, you start getting loose."
Rabil, Mundorf Sit
Paul Rabil and Brendan Mundorf did not play in Saturday's morning session, both sitting out with injuries. Rabil will undergo surgery for a pair of torn muscles next week. Mundorf re-aggravated an injury in pre-game warmups on Friday night.
Thul, Stanwick, Snider Impress
It was hard not to notice Hamilton Nationals attackman Garrett Thul on Saturday morning. The 231-pound future Army Ranger scored four goals, and was physical in the midfield as well, delivering a clean take down check on Virginia faceoff man Chris LaPierre as they scrapped for a ground ball off a faceoff.
"I'm out here trying to prove that I'm a hustle kind of guy, and show what I've got," said Thul, the former Army attackman.
Thul will have upcoming commitments with the Army and is unsure how that will affect his availability with Team USA going forward. But should he make it through cuts this weekend, he wants to continue through the tryout process.
"I'm going to play it by ear," Thul said. "It gets pretty crazy here in a little while, but hopefully I can work something out with the Army. I'd love to go out there and compete in Denver."
Also of note: In Saturday morning's Game 1, Ohio Machine attackman Steele Stanwick racked up five assists in a variety of ways; Bayhawks midfielder Ben Hunt finished with four goals; Boston Cannons defenseman Mitch Belisle had five ground balls; Kyle Sweeney had a goal and four ground balls; and the Denver Outlaws' Anthony Kelly and the Lizards' Greg Gurenlian were each 7-of-12 on faceoffs. In Game 2, Outlaws midfielder Drew Snider finished with three goals and Rochester Rattlers midfielder Matt Striebel, seeking to become just the third player to make four U.S. men's national teams, had two goals and one assist.
Much has been made about the six LXM Pro Tour players invited to tryouts, and perhaps that they would have something to prove against a pool largely comprised of MLL talent. But 2012 Tewaaraton Award winner Peter Baum, who joined LXM this summer after graduating from Colgate, doesn't think so.
"I don't think that's anything that myself, Sam [Bradman], Kyle [Harrison] thought about coming into it," said Baum, who notched one goal Saturday morning. "We all know we could play in the MLL if we chose to. Guys have come back and forth before. I don't think anybody came out here trying to prove anything like that. First and foremost, to play for your country is the biggest honor."
Fowler in Action
The last time we saw Duke's Brendan Fowler, he was becoming the first faceoff man to win NCAA tournament MVP honors and powering the Blue Devils past Syracuse in the national title game. And he's admittedly taken some time off since then to heal his body. He set NCAA Division I records for faceoffs won (339) and taken (526) last year.
"I'm definitely a little rusty," he said, "haven't played a ton since our season ended. But it's awesome to be back at it. You have all the best guys in the world out here."
Fowler is one of seven current collegians in the tryout pool (Bryant faceoff man Kevin Massa is as well), and Fowler is soaking up knowledge and tips from veteran MLL faceoff takers. He said going against 6-foot-4, 230-pound Anthony 'A-Train' Kelly of the Denver Outlaws was a learning experience on Friday night. Kelly won 9 of his 11 draws on Friday.
"He's a big, strong dude," Fowler said, which is saying something considering that's what is said about Fowler, a former high school wrestler and football player.
Odds and Ends
LaPierre, coming back from a strained knee ligament that sidelined him for most of the 2013 season at Virginia, wore a large black knee brace... Villanova long-stick midfielder John LoCascio jumped over a seated Cornell coach Ben DeLuca on the sideline after fighting for a sideline ground ball... The evaluators lined up in folding chairs along the sideline much like a high school or camp recruiting event. Among those spotted alongside Meade, assistant coaches Kevin Cassese, Dave Pietramala and Jeff Tambroni and the four designated team coaches for the weekend, were DeLuca (Tambroni's former assistant at Cornell), Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene, 2010 Team USA assistant Tony Resch, former Boston Cannons coach Billy Daye, Chesapeake Bayhawks coach Dave Cottle and Rochester Rattlers coach Tim Soudan... In general of the weekend, Baum said "It's the best pickup lacrosse you'll ever see." ... Games were played on grass fields because that is the surface at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, the 2014 world championship site... In a pre-tryout meeting on Friday, Team USA head coach Richie Meade, formerly the coach at Navy, spoke about the late Lt. Brendan Looney, a story that resonated, several players said. Looney was a 2004 Naval Academy graduate and lacrosse player who was killed in action as a Navy SEAL in 2010. ... The officials at Goucher are also being evaluated for spots in the 2014 games. "Sink or swim," said one of them, Kevin Forrester... Tryouts continue Sunday at Goucher and are open and free to the public.
Check back to LaxMagazine.com for more coverage from Team USA tryouts, including video interviews, photo galleries and updates on sessions throughout hte weekend.