COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland goalkeeper Brian Dougherty trembles every time he talks about the No. 3 Terps' home game tomorrow against top-ranked Johns Hopkins.
It's not out of fear. It's just another adrenalin rush.
L The Blue Jays serve as the toughest challenge of his career.
"From Day One, I looked at this game," said Dougherty, who is among the nation's leaders with a .672 save percentage. "Hopkins is No. 1. They got some great shooters. If you like to challenge yourself, this is it. Hopkins is good, but we're not afraid."
No goalkeeper has slowed Johns Hopkins this year. The Blue Jays have rolled to a 7-0 record, scoring an average of 17.3 goals on 53 shots per game while defeating three teams ranked in the top five.
When asked how important Dougherty's role is tomorrow, Maryland coach Dick Edell said: "Great players play their best against the best. And Saturday is as good as it gets."
Although no goalie has been able to shut down Hopkins, Dougherty wants to be the exception once again.
Growing up, he watched his brothers play college football and basketball and his uncles crack professional baseball. He was courtside, observing his father coach basketball at Army between the Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski eras.
None of these sports grabbed Dougherty's passion.
In seventh grade, Dougherty tried out with a friend for a club lacrosse team in Philadelphia. Dougherty was cut.
He found himself demoted to the B team and shifted from attackman to goalie. Dougherty learned his way around the cage through on-the-job training, and later that season led the B team to an upset of the A team.
Dougherty, 6 feet 1, 186 pounds, runs down the loose balls and rolls off the hits by opposing attackmen with ease on clearing plays. He even played in last year's NCAA tournament game against Duke with 25 stitches in his right calf.
"Goalies are different from the rest of the team," Edell said. "You sometimes believe they've played a few times without their helmet. And Brian fits right in there."
He almost fits into that category. Dougherty has his own set of rules for goalkeeping.
Rule No. 1: Don't wait for the attack to shoot when you can stop it before the shot. Dougherty, who faces an average of only 35 shots, spends almost half his time applying pressure outside the crease by intercepting crossing passes or forcing a bad decision.
Rule No. 2: Clearing the ball by patiently passing back and forth to defensemen is really boring. After a save, Dougherty improvises, heaving a clearing pass to a Terps attackman on the opposite end of the field or racing the ball up to midfield himself.
Dougherty never followed college lacrosse during high school. When he arrived at Maryland, Dougherty heard the stories about the heated rivalry with Hopkins.
He said he only truly realized the intensity before the opening faceoff of his first game against Hopkins.
"You understand once you get out there," Dougherty said. "You can see it in everyone's eyes. . . . You learn fast who you are supposed to hate -- I mean, competitively hate."