Most of them will tell you the toughest save comes off the clean, hard drive that gets through from the top of the scoring circle -- the shot that pops out of a blur of moving players.
"It can get crazy," said Annapolis senior goalie Emily Childs, in her fourth season. "You're trying to kick the ball out, and there are a million sticks around, and you don't know whose is whose. You have to have very good reflexes, and your feet have to be moving pretty fast."
To be a successful goalkeeper, you also need ingredients other than reflexes, including concentration, the mental toughness to forget fast when scored on, and a good grade in geometry.
And there's one defining prerequisite.
"You have to be brave," said Broadneck keeper Sara Glassman, a three-year starter for the 4-2 Bruins.
Chesapeake assistant coach Tracy Crane, who played in goal for the Cougars and also one season at Frostburg State, agreed with Glassman's assessment.
"You never want to put someone in the cage who doesn't want to be in the cage. That's the No. 1 priority," said Crane. "Years ago, it was always, 'OK, who wants to play in goal?' But now, more and more, you see 7- and 8-year-olds wanting to be a goalie."
The Field Hockey Junior Camp at Severna Park -- a five-week summer clinic for girls 7 through high-school age -- gives young players an early jump to brave the cage.
"Everyone has the chance to give it a try," said Severna Park coach and camp director Lil Shelton. "We get them in the helmet, chest protector and kickers, and they look like walking zombies for a day. Some just don't like the bombardment of shots, but others like it and stay."
Severna Park, winner of 11 state titles and six in the last seven years, has enjoyed a constant flow of reliable goalies and, at 6-1, this season is no different.
The secret to goalie success in Shelton's estimation?
"First, it takes a lot of guts and nerve," said Shelton. "I like to take my best athlete and put her in goal. Goalies also have to be smart on the angles and be able to direct the entire defensive unit. We've always had great goalies. They just seem to plop themselves down on my lap."
This season at Severna Park, Kim Lawton is the polished senior leader with sophomore Michelle Swarz the promising successor. Lawton, in goal for the last two state championships, is also one of a couple county keepers who also plays goalie in lacrosse.
"The two are very different," said Lawton. "In field hockey, you use your feet all the time, and there's a lot more equipment. It's pretty challenging, and sometimes you leave with bruises. But it pays off when you make a save. I try to stay warm, keep my feet moving, and always stay focused."
Swarz, who played sweeper in soccer before switching to field hockey when she got to high school, uses the skills she gained from that sport to help make a smooth adjustment.
"Once the angles are obtained, it's a lot easier to stop a shot. The footwork is a lot like soccer," she said. "The first time I got hit with a shot was in the elbow. I was always afraid of the pain. But when it happened, it was numb for a little while, and then it was over with. The fear was all gone. It all comes down to who is going to win -- you or the ball. You have to fight force with force and be fierce."
Glassman, who also had played basketball, was looking for something new when she decided to give field hockey a try in the eighth grade.
"So here we all were standing around with our new sticks and someone asked, 'So, who wants to be a goalie?' Me, being the brave one, I said, 'Sure.'
"So I put on all those pads, and it was 'wow, this is fun,'" said Glassman. "You always have to be prepared -- lunges, splits, dives, whatever it takes. It really wakes you up after a long day of school."
Laura Gerrior, South River's coach, had to go on a goalie search this season and turned to two sophomore newcomers.
With her Seahawks coming off an 8-4-2 season, she had the difficult task of replacing standout Amie Ward, a first-team All-County selection last fall. Gerrior, also a lacrosse assistant, recruited lacrosse player Jen Davison, and then, Kristin Cousin turned out to be a late surprise addition.
"I told Jen she was going to play goalie for me [in field hockey], and she said that was fine. Fundamental-wise, she picked it up quickly," said Gerrior. "I didn't know Kristin was coming out until the first day of camp. They're doing pretty well."
Cousin quickly learned the initial battle as a goalie came before she even took to the cage.
"I was really scared at first when I saw that big bag of equipment we had to put on. It was like, 'Oh, my gosh! How am I going to walk?' " said Cousin, who had played goalie in soccer. "But it wasn't as bad as I thought."
Pub Date: 9/30/99