Who's hot and who's not?
It's a popular question about goalkeepers for the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I lacrosse Final Four, which begins at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., tomorrow.
The consensus among several coaches is that no one's hot, but Maryland's Steve Kavovit is lukewarm.
And Towson State's Rich Betcher and Syracuse's Jerry DeLorenzo can dominate games. Or they can easily lose them. North Carolina's Andy Piazza was the game's most consistent goalie until the last three weeks of the season, when he was bombed by Pennsylvania and Loyola.
It hasn't been a year filled with great goalkeepers.
"It wasn't the type of year where you had a guy like Larry Quinn [Johns Hopkins All-American in 1983-86] and said, 'Oh my God, we've got to play against that guy,' " Hopkins coach Tony Seaman said. "There wasn't a goalie where you had to worry about placing a great shot every time you took one."
Recent history indicates that the team with a hot goalie wins the national championship. Syracuse, winner of the past three national championships, had the Gait brothers, but goalkeeper Matt Palumb was the team's unsung hero.
In the 1989 title game, Syracuse had a 13-12 lead, but Hopkins had the ball with 12 seconds left in the game. Blue Jays coach Don Zimmerman drew what seemed to be the perfect play as Jeff Ihm passed from behind the goal to a cutting John Dressel, who took a point-blank shot as the final whistle sounded. Palumb stopped it with his chest.
And Hopkins goalkeeper Quint Kessenich was superb when he collected 21 saves in his team's 11-10 win over Cornell in the 1987 title game.
"Matt gave us solid goalkeeping the last three years," said
Syracuse coach Roy Simmons Jr., whose No. 5-seeded Orangemen (12-2) will meet top seed North Carolina (14-0) at noon tomorrow. "He seemed to rise in those playoff games."
Seaman said, "One keeper usually does."
Who will step forward?
Kavovit, a junior, seems to be the leading candidate. No. 7 seed Maryland (10-4) plays No. 11 seed Towson State (11-3) in the second semifinal at 3 p.m., or 45 minutes after the first game ends. A year ago, Kavovit was sixth string, but he became the starter this season. Kavovit came on slowly and turned his season around in Game 8, when he recorded 16 saves in a 10-6 win over Navy.
On Sunday, Kavovit had 30 saves in Maryland's 16-13 quarterfinal win over Brown. Some of the Terps haven't seen a goalkeeper come out of the net so much since Jim Beardmore played for Maryland in the late 1980s.
"If there was a comeback player of the year award, he [Kavovit] would get it," said Loyola College coach Dave Cottle. "He's the hottest of them all right now."
Towson's Betcher, a junior-college transfer from Nassau (N.Y.) Community College, has played well in the playoffs, but he also ** has been inconsistent at times.
That's still an improvement. Before, Betcher was inconsistent for entire games, such as the day he had only five saves in a 17-16 loss to Maryland this season.
But Betcher was one of three new regulars breaking in on the Towson defense.
"If Betcher plays well, then we have a good chance of winning," said Towson midfielder John Blatchley. "If he doesn't, we usually lose. That's the bottom line."
DeLorenzo, a sophomore, has caused Simmons a lot of headaches. Besides his inconsistency, DeLorenzo quit the team three times because he couldn't beat out Palumb.
DeLorenzo was excellent against North Carolina earlier this season but horrendous against Hopkins two games later (only eight saves in an 18-12 Blue Jays victory). He was on against the Blue Jays a week ago, making 13 saves in Syracuse's 11-8 quarterfinal win.
DeLorenzo, though, has one of the nation's best defenses in front of him.
"He's had a checkered career," said Simmons. "The kid has ruined my sleeping pattern."
Seaman said: "He'll be at a definite advantage playing in the Carrier Dome. The ball is hard to pick up sometimes on shots because of where the crowd is seated, plus it's on AstroTurf. He plays on emotion, and there will be a lot of people rooting for him in the Dome. He's real streaky. Against us, he made saves sitting on his rear end. He even knocked down one shot by throwing his stick."
Piazza was outstanding until Penn scored 11 goals in the regular-season finale and Loyola nine in a quarterfinal. Like DeLorenzo, Piazza, a senior, has a great defense in front of him.
And if he has a hot championship series, North Carolina could win the title.
"We buried him last year at Rutgers [Syracuse won, 21-10], but he took away our will to shoot earlier this season [a 10-3 North Carolina win]," said Simmons. "I heard he hasn't played well lately, but until that point, he was having a great year."
"That's the form he needs to return to if North Carolina is to win the title," said Cottle.
NOTES: Fans driving to the Final Four should note that a bridge on Interstate 81 south of Syracuse is closed. Cars must leave the interstate at Exit 9 in Marathon, N.Y., and re-enter at Exit 10. Routes 221 and 41 are being used for the detour. Another route is U.S. 11, which parallels I-81 from Binghamton to Syracuse.
Joalie... . . .... . School. . .... . Saves. .. Goals. .. Pct.
Steve Kavovit.... . Maryland.. .... 206. . . . 128. . . 616
Rich Betcher. . . . Towson. . . . . 182. . . . 122. . . 599
Andy Piazza. . . . North Carolina. . 131.. . ... 79. . . 624
Jerry DeLorenzo. . . Syracuse. .. .. . 161. ...... 92 . ...636