Want to succeed in goal?
You've got to be naturally unafraid of the ball and have the knack for doing the right thing.
That's the advice of Mount St. Joseph senior Sean Gaiser, someone who has had a stick in his hands since he was 5 years old and has grown into one of the area's top goalies.
He has recorded a .739 save percentage (176 saves on 238 shots) this season, helping turn No. 8 Mount St. Joseph (8-5, 4-5) into a contender in the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference B Division.
Gaiser, 6 feet, 170 pounds, attributes much of his success, and the team's, to sophomore defenseman Brian Kelly, and three midfielders: sophomore Josh Vicchio, sophomore Steve English and freshman Mark LaChapelle.
"I rely on them completely," Gaiser said. "My long sticks help me out. I can't do a good job unless they do a good job."
When Gaiser and crew click, they can shut down the best of teams.
In a 6-3 loss to No. 2 Gilman, he made 17 first-half saves and didn't relinquish a goal until late in the third quarter.
The success is a product of experience.
Gaiser began playing lacrosse in the first grade and was drawn to the position of goalie because he thought the equipment was "neat."
He soon learned to not just admire the equipment, but also use it and use it well.
From first to fourth grade he played in the Catonsville Recreational League and intramural program. At the start of fifth grade, he moved up to Midget Junior Leagues in Catonsville. He played one year at Catonsville High School before transferring to Mount St. Joseph, attracted by its tradition of quality lacrosse.
It should come as no surprise that practice plays a crucial part in Gaiser's success.
His parents, Robert and Kathy, provide support and transportation so that their son can play the game throughout the year.
He's in a winter box league at the Perring Parkway Arena, a summer league at Loch Raven and a fall league at Overlea.
Gaiser doesn't let the knowledge learned in those seasonal leagues go to waste.
"He's a smart player," said Gaels coach Drew Bowden.
"He knows how the players [from other MSA teams] shoot. He knows where they shoot and what they can and can't do. And he uses that information against them."
"I look at the ball and which side of the field the shooter's on," Gaiser said.
"If he's coming down the right, I know he's likely to shoot from that side. Also, I look at the ball and try to keep my eye on it."
Gaiser doesn't allow his goaltending to be confined by the usual standard maneuvers.
"When he does something that's not textbook, it's for a reason,"
Bowden said. "It's because he has an advantage."
Some goalies won't risk leaving the crease area, but not Gaiser.
"If the guy's wide-open, I'll go out and take the ball away from him," Gaiser said. "It all depends on the situation. It's a judgment call."
Bowden appears to respect that judgment and has built his defense around his goalie's strength.
The Gaels use a soft zone designed to offset the attackers and restrict all shooting to the outside.
"The defense makes them take it from the outside," Gaiser said.
"I can block shots from the outside all day long. It's a lot easier than when they're close."
And when it comes to making a stop, Gaiser uses his entire body.
"I'll block with anything I've got," he said. "I'll use my leg, my stick, anything."
Gaiser will attend Loyola College on an athletic scholarship in the fall.