Matt Vierheller ended last season as the starting goalkeeper for Mount St. Mary's, ranking in the top 25 in Division I in save percentage (eighth), goals-against average (13th) and saves per game (23rd). He appeared poised to extend that status into 2016.
But the sophomore's grip on the position has been challenged by senior Frankie McCarthy to the point that coach Tom Gravante and associate head coach/defensive coordinator Tim McIntee aren't sure which goalie will start in the Mountaineers' season opener at Delaware on Saturday.
"They're both playing well in my opinion," Gravante said Thursday morning. "Our defensive coordinator is harder in terms of his judgment, but we've seen very good play from both of those guys in the last two weeks. I'm not sure when he's going to make that call, but it's either going to be McCarthy or Vierheller."
The 5-foot-7, 145-pound Vierheller recorded an 8.36 goals-against average and a .567 save percentage in 13 starts and became the first Mount St. Mary's player since 2012 to be named to the Northeast Conference All-Rookie team.
The 6-0, 180-pound McCarthy posted an 11.08 goals-against average and a .500 save percentage in three games including two starts. He started in the team's 11-10 loss to the Blue Hens on Feb. 24, making four saves.
"I liked him in high school," Gravante said of McCarthy, who played in Pennsylvania. "He started [six] games for us [in his first two seasons] before he blew out his ACL [in April 2014]. He just wasn't ready in the fall last year and honestly, Coach McIntee wasn't sure that Matt would be the starter in the spring of 2015. But Matt turned things around and just outplayed him. Frankie's back as a senior. He's stronger, and he looks good. He worked on the parts of his game that he was weak in. They're both very, very good goalies. Matt might still have a little bit of the edge as a returning starter. So we'll have to see."
Gravante said McIntee might make a decision after Thursday's practice. Gravante said his primary concern is helping the offense find its rhythm quickly at Delaware.
"I'm good with either one," he said. "… One is a senior, and one is the returning starter from last year who had a terrific freshman year. I just want our offense to support those guys by putting up enough goals to take the pressure off of them whatever way we can and let those guys do what they can do without having the pressure that they already have on them."