Freshman goalie Jacob Stover making a name for himself at Loyola Maryland

Jacob Stover has started the last four games and has a 5.91 goals against average and a .645 save percentage.

Jacob Stover was barely 5 years old when his family moved from Georgetown, Texas, to Baltimore. He was a T-ball player back then.

Lacrosse?

He'd never heard of the sport until he moved here and friends of his family put a lacrosse stick in his hands. And now, few people are happier than his new friends and family at Loyola Maryland.

Stover is the starting goalie for the Greyhounds, who will play Boston University on Saturday at noon at Ridley Field. He has started the last four games and has a 5.91 goals against average, saving 64.5 percent of the shots he has faced.

It's no coincidence that the Greyhounds have won their last four games, beating Georgetown, Bucknell, Colgate and Lehigh.

"I am only as good as the defense playing in front of me, and that group has been playing well," Stover said. "They have embraced me in the role as their goalie in this stretch of the season. I now have that mentality of knowing they have my back, and I have theirs."

Here are two other things you should know about Stover. He is a freshman who was listed as the No. 3 goalie when the season started and his father, Matt, is the former Ravens kicker.

But don't get the impression that Jacob is living off the Stover name. Matt knew as much about lacrosse as Jacob when he moved here with the Browns from Cleveland in 1996. He still doesn't have all the terminology down either, referring to attackmen as "attackers."

The quick hands, the ability to survey a field for quick outlet passes and the positioning in the goal are all things Jacob learned on his own, particularly from Rob Scherr, his goalie coach at McDonogh.

"As a high school goalie, Jacob was very technically sound and a student of the game," McDonogh head coach Andy Hilgartner said. "Jacob had a short memory during games which allowed him to stay focused throughout and helped him come up big when it was needed the most.

"His size and fearlessness in seeing shots were also important attributes that led to his success."

Still, no one saw Stover having success so early in college. Few thought he would replace sophomore Grant Limone after one year, much less six games.

The intriguing part is that most goalies, because opportunities are so limited, prefer to go to a college where the starting goalie is an upperclassman.

But Stover chose Loyola, which tells you about his confidence.

"I live about 20 minutes away, so I saw this as a good deal for my parents and family to come and see multiple games," said Stover. "Knowing that Coach [Charley] Toomey was a goalie in college, I felt very comfortable with him and his ability to help me get better.

"I didn't think I would start, but if I worked hard I knew I could compete. My dad had that mentality that you are only as good as your last kick, and I go out believing I am supposed to make every save. If I give up one, I have five to 10 seconds to rewind, and then it's on to next shot I have to stop."

After listening to Stover talk for five minutes, it is easy to tell he is strong willed. He openly talks about his Christian faith, his favorite scriptures and how he prays before every game.

He exudes the energy and the confidence of an upperclassman, and Hilgartner remembers Stover as being a "people's person," always supportive of others.

"I think that is his best leadership quality — care and service for others," Hilgartner said

Stover credits his father for his mental toughness in lacrosse. As a child, he used to go to some Ravens home games. Stover was one of the best kickers in NFL history, converting on 471 of 563 field goals, and ranks sixth in NFL history for field goals made.

He was one of the main reasons the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV to cap the 2000 season.

"The position of goalie and a placekicker are both specialty positions and there is only one on the field at a time," Jacob Stover said. "He prepared me mentally on how to approach games, practice and even attacking lifts. If you don't work hard, you could be out of a job. Thank God he made more kicks than he missed."

Said Matt Stover: "He has done a great job of being resilient on his own. He understands that if you aren't consistent in practice or consistent in games, you lose your job because nothing is guaranteed. I went through that during my career. The only perfect game is when you win the championship, because nobody cares after that."

Jacob Stover is just starting to hit his potential. He has spent time being coached by two former All-Americans in Quint Kessenich and Tyler Fiorito, and now has another All-American, Toomey, by his side every day.

He understands being his father's son.

"God has given me the opportunity to play at Loyola," said Jacob Stover. "I understand the name and that I have to play to a high standard, which is great. But I am trying to make a name for myself."

He has, and very quickly.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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