"Who is this guy?" a Towson State men's lacrosse fan asked after watching visiting Loyola goalkeeper Tim McGeeney emerge from a cloud of dust cradling one his 20 saves of the night.
"Where did they get this guy?" he later pondered as McGeeney snagged a shot over his left shoulder, cradled it, and delivered an outlet pass, in stride, to sophomore Derek Radebaugh sprinting down the sideline. "Is this guy for real?"
In eight games this season -- six wins and two losses -- the freshman keeper out of North County High has been superb, allowing just over eight goals a game and boasting an impressive .659 save percentage.
His 27 saves in last month's 13-5 loss to Syracuse University in the final of the Fleet Invitational tied Loyola's single-game record, but will do little to mend the scar in the Greyhounds' loss column.
"It was a personal goal, and I got the saves, but again we lost," said the 6-foot, 165-pound McGeeney, gathering his gear after dropping an 8-7 decision Saturday to the fourth-ranked Tigers in overtime. "Syracuse was a tough loss because it was so lopsided. They beat us pretty handily.
"But this kind of (close) loss hurts more,because we had it and we let it slip away."
Don Connolly's game-winner with 1:57 left in the four-minute overtime brought the MinneganStadium crowd to its feet and left McGeeney kicking the dirt in disgust.
"If I'd have made that last save it would have been excellent," said McGeeney. "But I didn't, so I just have to go back to practice and get ready for Duke next Saturday."
McGeeney's good fortune in the crease this season -- and there's been plenty -- has not come easily. After leading North County into the Class 4A-3A state championship game last season, the Linthicum native found himself in the chase with a senior, Tim Dunnigan, for the job as starting goalie.
"Weset goals at the beginning of the season, and mine was to start as afreshman," said McGeeney. "It was a great competition. We both had agood fall, so the first six weeks of practice the job was up for grabs.
"We were just going at it. We were making saves everywhere, and I think it brought the team up a little bit, too. It gave them confidence in the goalkeepers."
And, in the end, the freshman prevailed.
"It was the most difficult decision I've ever made as a head coach," said 10-year Loyola coach Dave Cottle. "It wasn't like Dunniganlost his spot, it was more of Timmy winning it. They were both making tremendous strides as goalies, but I went with (McGeeney) because he was making saves that you just can't teach."
Some of those "unteachable" saves came on March 14 when the then-No. 3 Greyhounds defeated No. 2-ranked and defending national champion North Carolina, 7-6, before 4,327 at Loyola's Curley Field.
McGeeney finished with 17 saves, many from point-blank range, including a shot from attackman John Webster with 9:55 left in the third quarter that seemed to inspireLoyola's defense.
"My confidence level is high, and it's because the team around me is just incredible," he said. "I make a good save and they get pumped up. I know the big save gets a team pumped, and that's what I thrive on."
McGeeney says his relationship with Dunnigan has not been strained by Coach Cottle's decision.
"It's been the best it can be," said McGeeney, last year's Anne Arundel County Sun Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year. "His parents are really nice, andthere's no hard feelings. I almost expected them at first, but he's never showed one bad feeling toward me.
"Timmy is a great guy," McGeeney said. "Tonight, when it was a one-goal game in the fourth quarter, he came out pumping his fist saying, 'This is what you live for,' and I really needed that. Coming from a senior it really helps."
And coming from a freshman, that's pretty impressive.