Venechanos saves 14, day for Terps

Skills, difficulty at practice prepared her for real thing

College Lacrosse

May 21, 2001|By James Giza | James Giza,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Alexis Venechanos isn't a fighter, but as the Maryland lacrosse team goalie, she knows how a battering feels. With sparring partners like Terps attackers Jen Adams and Quinn Carney, it's no wonder relief for Venechanos often comes on game day.

"We have the best shooters in the nation on our team, the best players," Venechanos said. "And practice is sometimes harder than the games. I get most of my bruises in practice."

Yesterday afternoon in the Terps' 14-13, double overtime win over Georgetown at Johns Hopkins Homewood Field - which clinched their seventh consecutive NCAA championship - the hard knocks clearly paid off. Venechanos finished with 14 saves, two of which came on the Hoyas' final possession of regulation and one in the opening period of overtime.

"She really pulled it out in the end and stepped up big," said Georgetown attacker and national Player of the Year candidate Sheehan Stanwick, whose free-position shot at point-blank range was snuffed by Venechanos with less than 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter. "I wouldn't say we were surprised. I'll have to watch the tape to see what the shot was like. But I wish we could have gotten it past her. We had the opportunity to win."

Entering the game, Venechanos had fellow sophomore Virginia Solomon nipping at her heels for the starting job. Solomon stopped seven shots to Venechanos' two in the Terps' 14-7 semifinal win over Princeton on Friday, giving her 29 saves in her past four games. Venechanos had seven in the same stretch.

And it didn't take long for Solomon to supplant Venechanos yesterday. After the Hoyas scored two goals 2:06 apart to cut the Terps lead to 8-3 with 6:47 left in the first half, Maryland coach Cindy Timchal yanked Venechanos and subbed in Solomon.

But Solomon gave up two quick goals, and Venechanos returned having missed only 2:16.

Said Timchal: "I was just trying to mix it up a little bit. I know Virginia has been doing well for us coming off the bench, and we just wanted to talk to Alexis a little bit. ... I think Georgetown did that, too, with their goalie. But it paid off for us in the second half."

In the final half, Venechanos tallied eight of her saves, each more crucial than the one before. First, there was a Stanwick free-position shot that Venechanos blocked low with 5:00 left to preserve a 12-12 tie. Then, there was a free-position shot from Kate Ahearn that the right-hander saved low across her body, followed by another Stanwick free-position launch with under 20 seconds to go, which Venechanos corralled.

In the first extra period, Kate Ahearn shot from close range at about the 1:10 mark, and Venechanos again made the save.

"I can't even explain how big Lexi was today," Terps defender Tori Wellington said. "I was probably positive of a few of those free-position shots, but she saved everything. ... she just lit it up today."

Venechanos credited much of her improvement to Alex Kahoe, Maryland's former three-time All-American goalie who was a volunteer assistant coach with the Terps this season.

"It's really good to have her because she has a goalie's perspective," Venechanos said. "The coaches can only tell you so much. But when you have someone who went through it, it makes it much more comforting."

Venechanos might not match Kahoe's four national titles as a starter, but her first one didn't feel too shabby.

"It's just an awesome feeling," Venechanos said. "I've been waiting for this moment for a long time."

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