Loyola women's lacrosse opponents are learning not to let goalie Tricia Dabrowski's size fool them.
A slight 5-2, Dabrowski doesn't look too intimidating in the cage, but with her quickness and agility, she can make the 6-by-6 window between the pipes seem a lot smaller.
"It's all about quickness," said the sophomore. "It's not about height at all, it's about how fast you can react to the ball."
More often than not, Dabrowski has all the angles covered - even the highest ones. She currently ranks second best in Division I with both her 6.67 goals-against average and her .635 save percentage.
Dabrowski's performance has been especially critical in Loyola's closest contests - six games won by a goal or two.
"I can't tell you in how many games this year, and last year, she has saved our butts," said Loyola coach Diane Geppi-Aikens. "I think some people still say, 'She's small and I can take advantage of that,' but she makes up for it with feistiness and quickness."
Dabrowski set the tone for an outstanding sophomore season on March 12, in the third game of the season. She matched her career-high 16 saves, including five in the final 4:31, to hold onto a 6-5 win over current No. 2 Princeton.
She later earned Colonial Athletic Association Tournament MVP honors after stopping 11 shots in the 12-10 championship victory over current No. 3 James Madison. That win clinched an automatic bid to the NCAA National Collegiate Tournament.
"Trish has not had an off game this season, " said Geppi-Aikens. "A lot of goalies are very good when they're good, but they have off days. You'd rather have a goalie save 50 to 60 percent every game than have three or four 80 percent days and she's been able to do that. I don't worry about whether she's going to be on or off, because she's always on."
Three weeks ago, Dabrowski made 15 saves in a 9-8 win over No.12 Delaware, which makes a return trip to Curley Field this afternoon for an NCAA tournament first-round game. She stopped 12 first-half shots against the fast-breaking Blue Hens.
"She's quick and she really stays in the cage well," said Delaware coach Denise Wescott, a former Maryland goalie. "She covers her angles and we really need to move her and make her commit before we can score."
Although Dabrowski had a solid freshman season, starting every game and averaging 10 saves in each one, she really came into her own this season.
"It's just a matter of composure and that comes with a year of experience," said Geppi-Aikens. "She's always been good, but when we bring a new goalie in, no matter how good they are, we have to change some things, so we concentrate on technical things. Repetition is absolutely the key, having balls shot at you all the time."
Even at Dulaney, where she was selected second-team All-Metro three straight years, Dabrowski was comfortable both in the goal and out. As a long-time soccer goalie, Dabrowski was used to covering more space - with just one difference.
"In soccer, it's more going after the ball," she said. "In lacrosse, it's reacting to the shot. There's no guessing. You have to go where the ball is."
Dabrowski has never been hesitant to come out and make an interception or knock down a pass. Her 56 ground balls are the most on the Loyola team.
A perfectionist, Dabrowski can be tough on herself when someone scores on her, but as she matures as a player, those goals simply fuel her determination not to let anything else get by.
"For me, it's 99 percent mental and one percent physical. I know I can go out there and stop the ball," said Dabrowski. "I hate when one ball goes in the goal, but you just have to shake it off and keep telling yourself you're going to get the next one. Once I start making saves, I really get into it. "