Liberty's Carter finds place to call home in goal Saving role: Senior has had a prominent hand in Lions' 44-game regular-season winning streak.

April 05, 1996|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

It was in the eighth grade when Heather Carter found her second home.

It wasn't easy. When she raised her hand to volunteer to play goalie for her Freedom Optimists' field hockey team in the fall, her coach told her she was too small.

After nobody else showed any interest in playing the position, her coach finally gave in. The following spring, it was an easy choice for the 5-foot-4 Carter to play in goal during the lacrosse season.

Now, a senior at Liberty High, she's in her third season starting on varsity, a co-captain of a team that has made two straight appearances in the state final.

On Tuesday, visiting Oakland Mills had a restart in the Liberty end. Carter prepared, methodically clanking the left post of the goal with the handle end of her stick and then catching the right post with the other end. The shot went high.

"I'm checking my angles," she said. "It's just something I learned. I guess it's a bad habit because I don't look back to see where I'm at. I can feel where my angles are and I know where I'm at."

The No. 15 Lions came away with an 11-4 win over Oakland Mills, improving to 2-0 this season and extending their regular-season winning streak to 44 games. Carter, who had seven saves in the win, has been in goal for a good part of the streak and has improved steadily.

As a sophomore, she had 108 saves with 114 goals allowed. She followed that with 82 saves and only 55 goals against last season.

"She's a real bright individual," coach Courtney Vaughn said. "She can read the ball pretty well and that comes with experience. She also knows the angles and her stick technique is improving every day."

The team's impressive run began in April of 1992, the year Carter first began playing in goal.

This season brings some new challenges for her. The past couple of years, the Lions have been so dominant offensively that it was rare when Carter saw a large number of shots coming her way, and when it did happen, the Lions were usually comfortably ahead.

With some key players lost to graduation, the Lions came into the season with some questions they've so far answered. One question Vaughn didn't have was the effort she would get in goal.

"Heather gives us stability," Vaughn said. "She's very dedicated and shows up for every practice and game giving 120 percent. She's progresses every year and has gotten more and more confident. She's ready to take on that leadership role and that comes with experience and the fact she's a senior."

Carter sees the same kind of success for the Lions this season as the past two years and has a good understanding what she needs to do to keep the Lions rolling.

"I'm more confident and that comes with the leadership role," she said. "This year, I'm more of a voice on the field. The goalie is the anchor of the defense and I can see everything so I need to talk. We're coming along and improved a lot from the beginning. We know we lost a couple of people, but I don't think it matters that much."

Field hockey is her favorite sport and she'll play for whatever college she decides to attend. She was a three-year starter for the Lions' field hockey team, also coached by Vaughn, and has earned all-county honors.

It's lacrosse that has taken Carter further in the playoffs, though. Despite two losses against perennial power Loch Raven in the Class 2A final, playing in such big games is something Carter never will forget.

"It's been a really good experience," she said. "The first year, I was scared to death, but it helped me gain confidence. It was a lot of fun and despite the two losses, just having the opportunity to be there I can look back and think it's great."

This season, Liberty moved up to Class 3A so the Lions will have to contend with the likes of Mount Hebron come playoff time.

Until then, Carter will be going about her business, clanging the posts and doing her best to keep the ball out of the cage.

"Just being in my goal, that's where I belong," she said.

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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