Jays goalie makes stand

Lacrosse: In his final college game at Homewood Field tomorrow, Hopkins' Brian Carcaterra remains focused on getting his team to the NCAA tournament's final four.

May 20, 2000|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

He speaks brashly, and he carries a potent stick that amplifies gifts most goalies only dream of having.

Pound for pound, few players in collegiate lacrosse have sturdier shoulders than Johns Hopkins goalie Brian Carcaterra. Few players can negate the so-called limitations of the position like the 5-foot-8, 165-pound redshirt senior. Few teams ride a keeper's unflinching confidence like the Blue Jays lean on their little big man.

When fourth-seeded Hopkins faces off against Notre Dame in tomorrow's NCAA tournament quarterfinal round, Carcaterra will take the Homewood Field stage for the last time, with a Final Four wish in College Park weighing heavily on his mind.

And fans will get one more peek at the player whose style compels their eyes to shift his way.

They will see a tender who never stops talking and hardly stops moving. They will watch Carcaterra dart from the crease to pounce on ground balls and start fast breaks with decisive outlet passes. They will watch him stop a wicked shot, then clear the ball by turning into an offensive player, sprinting down the field past opposing attackmen and midfielders, before dumping off a pass far from his own net.

Don't think those enjoying the sights are only in the stands.

"I wish I had that athletic ability. Not many [goalies] do. They are usually playing attack or midfield," said Brian Holman, a former Hopkins goalie who coaches the position with the Blue Jays.

"Brian adds an element to the game. He rarely makes a major mistake with a ground ball. He's very much under control. He has a plan. From a field perspective, he is by far one of the better goalies to play."

As a player who ranks second all-time at Hopkins in saves, Carcaterra could not agree more. There is no place he would rather be than in and around the cage, performing heroics and demoralizing opponents, with a large crowd hanging on his next creative move.

"I never want my position to regulate my athleticism or my lacrosse ability. I like it. I think the crowd likes [his style]," said Carcaterra, 22, whose career-high, 23-save effort in a 16-12 victory over Loyola two weeks ago gave the Blue Jays a first-round playoff bye.

"I've seen that look in a [shooter's] eye, when you know you've got them. I love being able to take over a game. It fits my personality. I love being the center of attention."

The spotlight has followed Carcaterra throughout his senior year, bringing with it off-the-field attention he would have preferred to avoid.

Carcaterra's school year began in jail, where he found himself last September charged with second-degree rape and assault.

Police arrested Carcaterra after a woman he had met and shared drinks with at a Charles Village pub claimed he drugged a glass of wine in her Charles Street apartment and possibly forced her into sex as she lay unconscious. Court documents filed in the case revealed that tests at Greater Baltimore Medical Center showed that sexual activity had taken place.

The state's attorney's office dropped the charges after toxicology tests revealed no signs of illegal substances, neither in a wine glass taken from the apartment, nor in a urinalysis performed on the woman.

The memories of Carcaterra's 30-hour stay at the Baltimore City Police central booking unit, mostly alone in a cell, are vivid.

"That place is absolutely hell on earth," he said. "Your life doesn't flash in front of you; it stays in front of you. You reflect on everything. I was thinking of the worst-case scenario, that I could be part of the small percentage of innocent people who go to jail."

Then, while waiting for his bond hearing in a holding area with "about 30 other alleged criminals," Carcaterra saw his face on local television. Some of the other suspects made fun of him. He remembers burying his head in his hands and feeling numb.

"It was surrealistic," he said. "I was stone cold, in shock, couldn't cry, couldn't eat, couldn't drink. I thought it was a bad dream."

The school administration ruled Carcaterra out of fall lacrosse action. For one of the few times since he first picked up a stick at the age of 8, lacrosse became secondary.

The charges were dropped in December, and Carcaterra rejoined the team.

The most striking thing about Hopkins earlier this year was how the Blue Jays could not stop anyone. During a 1-3 start that marked their worst since 1966, Hopkins allowed 44 goals in the defeats to Princeton, Syracuse and Virginia. The close defense, which had no seniors, leaked constantly.

By mid-April, when he outplayed Pat McGinnis decisively in a 20-11 victory over Maryland, the old Carcaterra was coming back. His effort against Loyola on May 6 launched him into his final postseason.

Carcaterra, who honed his goalkeeping skills while growing up in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. and absorbing countless shots from older brothers Steve and Paul-they were All-Americans at Towson State and Syracuse-badly wants to erase past playoff failures in his last Final Four.

"Playing so well in March and April won me goalie of the year two years ago, but I didn't play so great in May," he said.

"This year, I broke down my game and really committed to making us a better unit. I've built up my game step by step. [Winning a title] would be a fitting end to a crazy story. Being where I am right now has been a project I've been working on my whole life."

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