Thriving on zero results

Defense: A true defender doesn't prove himself by making flashy offensive plays

he does it by fighting for everything and allowing nothing.

Boys Lacrosse

March 20, 2002|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

When you're a defender in boys lacrosse, glory comes from the little things.

Pressuring an attackman into making an errant pass; making your slide at the precise moment to alter his shot; digging ground balls and starting a fast break; blocking a shot with the body; stripping an offensive player of the ball and, in some small way, his dignity.

And sometimes it comes from making the big hit.

"Big hits are like big goals, the big ground ball, or anything else in the game -- it can shift the momentum of a game one way or the other," said Annapolis coach Joe Keenan, a former All-Metro defender at St. Mary's who later starred at North Carolina.

"But to me, the hits aren't the focus as much as good footwork, decision-making, playing strong position defense and not being a liability to the team."

There are as many aspects to playing defense as there are ways to score goals.

"Some guys fit better in a team defense, others in a one-on-one, you-challenge-me, I-challenge-you type of deal," said Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly, a former three-time All-Metro defenseman. "Some guys do it all, and they're your MVPs."

The flashiest of the defenders is the "takeaway" or one-on-one specialists. Often given the green light to free-lance, they are the risk takers who thrive on constantly harassing the opposition's top offensive threats into ineffectiveness.

"It's all about pressure. Constant checks across the stomach, the hands, knocking him down," said Fallston's Pat Comegys. "It's all to get them thinking more about what I'm doing than playing the game. You know you're in their head when they say something vulgar after missing a shot."

The long pole or defensive midfielders are strong, fast and versatile workhorses. Flanking the faceoff specialists, they target the top offensive midfielder, sparking their own team's offense and trying to thwart the other team's.

"We've got two kids who play the wing, Eric DeMunda and John Feldman, and we can match speed with speed if we want," said Broadneck's Clay White. "Eric's more physical, can recover and make up for mistakes. Feldman's a tremendous position player. We call them our two-headed monster."

The crease defenseman works with the goalie, standing within 5 or 6 yards of the keeper and "quarterbacking" his teammates against oncoming threats.

At Boys' Latin, that role has fallen to John Gallagher. He orchestrates the Lakers' "slide package," or its sequence of responses to the opposition's offense as it develops off the faceoff.

"It's virtually impossible not to give up shots, but you can force an offense to take the shots you want them to or rush them from the worst possible angles," Gallagher said.

Playing offense often can mean "getting your name in the headlines, your picture in the paper," said Loyola's Matt Pinto. Where defense, he said, often means "being in pain a lot of time."

"You spend a lot of the game burning your legs out: Reading, reacting, timing yourself to make the right slides and figuring out when to get up or down the field," Pinto added. "But being able to knock the ball on the ground and get it to the other end, or when you've made a big defensive stand in a big win, that can make it all worthwhile.

"It's those little things that make you feel like it's the best position on the field."

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