With players like Mark Donahue, Kris Gooding, and Joe Onheiser leading the charge for the Liberty boys lacrosse team, it's easy for Greg Stange to get lost in the crowd.
But if the junior goalkeeper continues to man the pipes as he has during the Lions' four-game winning streak, opponents could direct a lot of their attention to the cage.
Stange leads all county goalies with 87 saves and has given up about 6.5 goals a game. His performance is a big reason why Liberty (4-1 in the county and 5-3 overall) has vaulted from a last-place finish a year ago to the top of the county standings this season.
"I didn't know much about him before he met us," said South Carroll coach John O'Meally, whose team lost a 9-8 squeaker to the Lions nine days ago. "I was surprised at how well he handled the ball after he made the save. ... For somebody who has only been playing for a couple of years, he seemed to have a lot of control."
Stange's development behind the mask is remarkable when one considers that he bought his first lacrosse stick three years ago.
Stange, who had never played recreation league lacrosse, said he hadn't planned on trying out for the team during his freshman year until classmate Tim Sheets suggested the idea to him three days before tryouts.
Stange spent his entire freshman season and half of his sophomore campaign on the JV squad. Despite being called up midway through last season, Stange didn't see much playing time behind starter Kevin Schreiner.
When Schreiner opted to try out for the tennis team this year, it appeared that the goalkeeper position was Stange's to lose.
But Lions coach Sal Picataggi had a talented sophomore in Greg Reeves. So would Picataggi go with, Reeves or Stange?
Stange said the uncertainty didn't bother him. "It was mentioned to me during the summer, but I just hoped that coach would choose the best guy," Stange said.
It later turned out that Reeves had to miss the first few games, so Stange earned the starting role.
Stange started the season 1-1, but he had allowed an alarming 26 goals in those two games. Onheiser, a senior defenseman and tri-captain, admitted that the defense was apprehensive.
"At first, we were more worried about having to stop the shots ourselves," Onheiser said. "We knew that he was getting moved up from JV and that he had never stepped into a varsity game."
Two more losses followed, but Stange cut down on the goals, allowing 15 in those two contests.
Stange's coming-out party came in an April 7 battle at home against North Carroll, a preseason favorite to win the county championship. Stange turned back 14 shots and outlasted the Panthers' All-County goalie Kyle Lettau for a 4-3 double-overtime win.
"It came down to whoever let a goal in," recalled senior defenseman Cameron Cook. "It came down to the two goalies, and we had a lot of confidence in Stange."
After that victory, Liberty won two more county games, including a 12-4 thumping of high-octane Francis Scott Key.
Picataggi, who attributes Stange's improving outlet passing to assistant coach Steve Gray, said he believes his goalkeeper's strength is a short memory.
"What I mean by that is if he lets in a bad one, that's forgotten," Picataggi said. "If you keep that memory with you, you could let up two or three more and you're done mentally for the game."
To be successful, the Lions will rely on Donahue, a junior attack who leads the county in scoring with 20 goals and 15 assists, and junior attack Steve Freedman.
But Picataggi said opponents might do themselves a favor if they don't overlook Stange.
"If I was another team looking at us going into the preseason, I would have felt that I had a significant advantage in goal," Picataggi said. "That's not the case anymore."