EMMITSBURG — For the second game in a row, junior Matt Vierheller opened as Mount St. Mary's starting goalkeeper, but was pulled at halftime for freshman Cameron Carpenter. But in Sunday's 14-7 loss to Furman here at Waldron Family Stadium, the benching was unplanned.
Still, Vierheller, who surrendered 10 goals while making five saves in the first half, was realistic about the demotion.
"If I don't play well like I did today, then I don't deserve to be in there playing the whole game," said the Forest Hill resident who graduated from Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda.
Head coach Tom Gravante had said that the Vierheller-Carpenter rotation in Tuesday's 10-7 setback to No. 14 Richmond was a pre-determined strategy to get Carpenter, the only other eligible goalie on the roster, some experience at the Division I level. But associate head coach/defensive coordinator Tim McIntee said Sunday's move was designed to protect Vierheller from another shelling like the one he endured in an 18-5 loss to Delaware on Feb. 11.
"I thought that was the best time to do it because I didn't do it in the Delaware game and I wanted to make a better decision not just for Matt mentally, but I think for our team," McIntee said. "Just a little change. Matty's feeling great right now. He didn't have a great half, but we didn't help him. I don't think we have a goalie issue here. I think we have a youth issue, and we're just not good enough in those moments, and we're making too many mistakes, and our mistakes turn into goals against."
Carpenter gave up only four goals and made six stops in the second half against the Paladins, but he wasn't sure he had played well enough to warrant being named a starter sometime this year.
"I don't know. I feel like today, I played pretty well," he said. "It could happen. It just depends on how the games go and how we feel in practice."
Vierheller, who was named to the Northeast Conference All-Rookie team in 2015, has the edge in experience over Carpenter, but he also understands that does not cement anything for him.
"You go with your hot goalie into the conference" schedule, he said. "That's just how I've always thought about it. With the important games, you have to put the guy that's going to be the best to win, and in the conference, that's all that matters."
Circling back to "Three Things to Watch" …
1) Man-up offense. Mount St. Mary's finally took advantage of an extra-man situation, converting its lone opportunity when fifth-year senior attackman Bubba Johnson one-timed a pass from senior attackman Cameron Stone with 9:09 left in the first quarter. But the goal hardly mattered as the offense has yet to score more than seven goals in a game this season. The unit appears to be struggling with some of the basic tenets of the sport, which did not escape Gravante's attention.
"I watched the game, and it doesn't seem like we did some really smart things early on, especially with the fundamentals of catching and throwing," he said. "We were force-feeding the crease at times, and at the other end, it didn't look like our defense was really coordinated because they were throwing it through, and their guys were on the crease all by themselves."
2) Faceoffs. Entering the game with a 28.8 faceoff percentage (19-of-66), Mount St. Mary's improved slightly on Sunday, winning 32.0 percent (8-of-25). But the team had few answers for Furman senior Hil Blaze (McDonogh), who won 17 of 25 draws, collected a game-high five ground balls, and scored the first goal of the game when he cleanly won the faceoff and raced in alone on Vierheller. Freshman Shawn Raum went 8-of-21 with one ground ball, while fifth-year senior Tommy Lyons and freshman Brian Haley combined to lose all four draws they took.
"Faceoffs were a struggle for us," McIntee said. "Today was a day that we got closer on faceoffs, but I just think that we're still a team that's still developing and getting better even though the score doesn't reflect it right now."
3) Clears. Mount St. Mary's continued to struggle in making the transition from defense to offense and cleared the ball just 9-of-15 times, which will lower the team's season percentage of 80.0 percent (48-of-60). The Mountaineers misfired on two clearing attempts in the first, third, and fourth quarters, squandering chances to put a dent in the lead Furman had built. McIntee was clearly exasperated by the miscues.
"I can't predict our guy is going to take the ball and throw it over the goalie's head when he's in the cage in the second half," he said. "So we were wide open, and we threw it over his head twice. That's obviously a problem. We have some defensemen that aren't making plays in clears, and we have some kids that are going offsides and making really bad decisions in the moment. But it's still early in the year."