Making their stands, making the difference

Goalies: All five county teams boast some of the strongest goaltending in recent memory.

Boys Lacrosse

March 20, 2000|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The goalkeeper position isn't what it used to be when John Baugher played lacrosse in high school.

"Back then, we had the biggest, heaviest kid in there because he took up a lot of room," the current Francis Scott Key coach recalled. "Now, you're looking for a guy who plays other sports, maybe soccer during the fall or basketball in the winter, someone who's athletic. It's tough to score on that kind of guy."

Getting the ball into the net may be even tougher this season as all five county teams boast some of the strongest goaltending in recent memory.

Baugher has senior Dan Skiles between the pipes, while senior Greg Puttman takes over for alumnus Billy Arnold at Westminster. Junior Greg Stang and sophomore Greg Reeves are battling for the starting goalie position at Liberty, and South Carroll has two senior veterans in Matt Booz and Jason Witte.

And let's not forget North Carroll junior Kyle Lettau, who returns from an All-County year as a sophomore.

All of which leads many coaches to believe that scoring will come at a premium this season.

"I think the difference might be right there, at goalie," said North Carroll coach David Dodson.

Developing a steady goalkeeper is not easy. Many players, enthralled with the attention bestowed on game-winning goals and pretty passes, tend to opt to play the attack or midfielder position.

But coaches know that if their teams plan to play for a state championship, they will need a goalie who can direct the defense, block shots, and jump-start the transition to offense.

"A goalie can always make a difference, but a hot goalie can make any game really, really close," said South Carroll coach John O'Meally.

Adds Liberty coach Sal Picataggi: "Having one less thing to be worried about is good. When you have confidence in your goalie, your defense tends to be a little more aggressive, and if the defense makes a mistake, the goalie can bail you out."

Perhaps the best goalkeeper in the county is Lettau, an emotional leader who stopped about 65 percent of shots faced last year.

Lettau, who helped the Panthers reach the Class 4A-3A West regional championship game, is receiving one-on-one coaching to refine his ability to clear the ball.

"Offense starts with defense," Dodson said. "If you can't get the ball down the field, then you can't score. It's a big deal to get a goalie to throw the ball right."

Lettau's primary competition for end-of-the-year honors may be Westminster's Puttman, who started the first eight games of last season while All-County goalkeeper Arnold served a suspension.

In those eight games, Puttman blocked 71 percent of his shots -- an experience that Owls coach Jim Peters believes will prove beneficial.

"I'm not sure how much time Greg would've gotten if Billy played the entire season," Peters said. "Maybe a few minutes here and there, but I think it helped him."

At South Carroll, O'Meally has the flexibility of using either Booz or Witte, who platooned at the position last season. While the pair differ in their goaltending styles -- Booz likes to block opposing shots with his stick, while Witte uses his body -- their presence gives the Cavaliers offense an advantage, O'Meally said.

"A lot of guys don't think a drill is live until a goalie is in the net," he said. "What we'll do is take one goalie and the attack to one end of the field and the other goalie and the midfield to the other end and practice our shooting drills. It gives us a lot more repetitions and it helps everyone get better."

Skiles is another solid goalkeeper who should improve after daily practices with Eagles' scorers Nathan Krida, Justin Merson, and Sean Todd.

"He's probably not the best athlete on the team," Baugher said of Skiles, "but he makes up for it with his knowledge of the game. He's very smart out there."

At Liberty, Reeves and Stang are vying to replace Kevin Schreiner, who opted to play tennis this season. Stang, a starter on the JV squad for half the season, has more experience, but Reeves has been outstanding in a few practices, Picataggi said.

"Both are good," Picataggi said of the duo. "It'll be interesting to see who plays better."

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