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Different styles lead to success for Bryn Mawr's Wolf, St. Mary's Ward

College SportsUnder Armour Inc.Johnny UnitasTowson UniversityESPNU (tv network)

As lacrosse goalies, Bryn Mawr's Molly Wolf and St. Mary's Megan Ward have the quickness and the athleticism to make spectacular saves, but they take different approaches to the position.

Wolf plays a more aggressive game, eager to come out of the crease, while Ward plays more conservatively, preferring to stay home and cut down the shooters' angles. Both rank among the Top 10 goalies in the nation in ESPNHS's Class of 2012 Top 100.

After playing against each other for four years, the 18-year-olds will team up for the first time Saturday. They're the only goalies selected for the South team in the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic at Towson University'sJohnny Unitas Stadium.

Wolf, rated the nation's No. 2 goalie, posted a save rate of 57 percent this year and had a 6.33 goals-against average for the No. 4 Mawrtians (15-2). Ward's Saints struggled this spring, finishing 2-16, and she faced about 100 shots more than Wolf. Despite her frustration at allowing 13.4 goals a game, Ward, ESPNHS's No. 9 goalie, had a 47.4 percent save rate, averaging nearly 10 saves per game.

When their teams met this spring, Wolf and Ward allowed only eight total goals as Bryn Mawr won, 5-3.

"They're both really quality goalies," Maryvale coach Jessica Randisi said. "Megan stayed more in the goal and Molly wasn't afraid to take the risk. Who knows which [style] is better? They can both make the stops and they can clear the ball wherever they want it to go. Molly was more daring, but we had to work hard to move Megan."

Their styles reflect their personalities to a degree, but St. Mary's goalie coach Jack Manley said most goalies stick with the style they were originally taught. Each goalie develops her own comfort zone.

Manley started working with Ward when she was 13, and the first thing he noticed was her athleticism.

"Megan's very athletic and quick as a cat," he said. "She's got hands that are really, really fast. I thought her best asset was staying in instead of attacking all the time. Her thing is cutting down the angles."

Attacking, however, works for Wolf, the 2011 All-Metro first-team goalie and a second-team pick this season.

"Molly has a flair for the dramatic," Bryn Mawr co-coach Kim Simons said. "She loves to make the 50-yard clear and she loves to make the big save. She thrives on that. It doesn't intimidate her. We want her to be aggressive and have a lot of personality while she plays."

Wolf learned her assertive style from her first rec coach,Patrick O'Brien.

"When I first started playing, he used to say, 'Be like a bulldog and attack the ball, just go out and get it,'" Wolf said. "I like getting out of the goal a lot. I like making the big plays that people don't expect."

Ward, the 2011 All-Metro second-team goalie, has an edge on many shooters because she's left-handed and she makes most of her big athletic saves near the goal line.

"I am more conservative," she said, "but I'm definitely trying to become more comfortable with coming out a little bit more. With a frustrating season, you're going to make more brash decisions and I was more likely to come out when we were down by a lot of goals."

At the Under Armour game, and the practice Friday, the girls are looking forward to facing some of the best attack players in the country and getting a look at different shooting styles they may face in college.

As Wolf heads to Loyola and Ward to North Carolina, they said their main challenge will be to handle the cerebral side of a game that's about to get much faster.

"I think at this point it's 75 percent mental," Ward said, "because you already know what you're supposed to do and after you do something, you know what you did wrong. I just try to settle down and tell myself I'm going to get the next one, focus on the next shot not the last one."

Both said that some days they see the ball as if it were a beach ball and they seem to save everything. Other days, the ball looks more like a marble and they struggle to pick up on it.

"I don't think it'll ever stop being that transition into being a really mental player," Wolf said, "because the game's always changing. College is going to be different than now, so I'll have to adapt to that."

Manley said goalies who have excelled as much as Wolf and Ward on the high school level already have the main asset to continue to grow on the college level.

"It's just their heart and wanting to be the best and work very, very hard," he said. "They have the heart of a lion and it doesn't matter whether you score on them once, twice, three times, they're going to come at you. That's what makes them good goalies. There are a lot of goalies out there, but when they get scored on once or twice, they're going to give up. Megan keeps coming at you and I'm sure Molly's the same way."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic

Date: Saturday, June 30

Time: Girls at 5 p.m.; boys at 8 p.m.

Location: Johnny Unitas Stadium, Towson University

Tickets: $26 (premium); $21 (general admission); $16 (youth — 12 & under)

TV: Boys game on ESPNU

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