For goalie twins, father really does know best

Dad is a lacrosse coach, so St. Mary's starters have easy access to an expert

High Schools

April 16, 2002|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Let's clear the air, get it out into the open and set the record straight: Ray Finnegan never intended to have his children become lacrosse goalies.

Never mind that Finnegan was a goalkeeper at the Naval Academy 30 years ago. Forget that Finnegan has been the goalie coach for the Midshipmen since 1988.

If he had his way, his children - 18-year-old twins Colin and Kathleen Finnegan - would have been midfielders.

"That gives you the most opportunity to be on the field," Ray Finnegan, 51, said. "Secretly, I loved midfielders because I always thought that they were the thoroughbreds on the team."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Sports section stated incorrectly where St. Mary's lacrosse player Brooke Dieringer will go to college. She will attend North Carolina. The Sun regrets the error.

Apparently, that secret never found its way to Colin and Kathleen Finnegan, who are the starting goalkeepers for the St. Mary's boys and girls lacrosse teams, respectively.

Both began their careers as attack players, but haven't looked back since making the transition to goalie before high school.

"Every now and then, I think, `What would have happened if I had been at attack? Would I be as good as [second-team All-Metro player and Maryland recruit] Brooke Dieringer?' " said Kathleen Finnegan, who is one minute younger than her brother. "But I don't regret becoming a goalie."

Lacrosse has been a way of life for the Finnegan family since a former City College athlete and a current Orioles vice president, Lou Kousouris, introduced the sport to his cousin, Ray Finnegan.

Finnegan went to Howard High in Ellicott City, where he was a varsity attack player for two years. He took his attack skills to Loyola College for two years before he decided to transfer to the Naval Academy.

During a one-year stint at the academy's preparatory school, Finnegan decided to switch from attack to goalkeeper.

"I used to fool around in the goal all the time," he recalled. "The guys told me I was pretty good. Besides, [Navy wasn't] interested in a 5-foot-7, 130-pound attackman who didn't score any goals."

Finnegan incorporated his stick skills and dodging ability as an attack player into his role as a goalie, and he impressed the Navy coaching staff enough to join the team for four seasons.

After an eight-year run as a naval aviator ended in 1982, Finnegan dabbled as a stockbroker before becoming an airline pilot in 1984.

Three years later, Finnegan and his family moved from Florida to Baltimore, and he asked then-Midshipmen coach Brian Matthews if he needed any help with his goalkeepers. Finnegan was hired the following year.

Not surprisingly, Colin and Kathleen Finnegan began playing lacrosse at an early age. Kathleen Finnegan said she can recall catching passes from her father in the back yard as a 4-year-old.

Ray Finnegan said his son was a toddler when he learned to throw his arms up in the air in celebration after he shot the ball into the net.

Colin Finnegan said his father didn't try to influence his children's paths to being a goalie.

"He never forced it on us," the son said. "He told us to play whatever position we wanted to play and that he would be there for instruction."

Colin and Kathleen Finnegan said they haven't felt a yearning for those days as attack players because their adrenaline comes from preventing, not scoring, goals.

"I think it's better to stuff someone," Kathleen Finnegan said. "It builds you up and makes you feel good."

The Finnegan children went to summer camps at the Naval Academy and practiced in the backyard with their father, trying to absorb his advice and improve their skills. Sometimes, practice would end with either Ray Finnegan or one of his children (usually Colin, according to his father and sister) walking away in frustration.

"They wanted to be perfect," Ray Finnegan said. "I told them that you can't be perfect all the time, but they would get so mad if they let in a goal. Sometimes, those practices would go to pot."

But the practices would resume shortly thereafter, and Colin and Kathleen Finnegan eventually proved that they were good listeners. Colin has accepted an invitation to play at Navy next season; Kathleen will continue her career at American University.

Maureen Dupcak, the women's lacrosse head coach at American, said Kathleen Finnegan, who will be one of two players competing to be starter, may have a slight advantage because of her father's expertise.

"I would have to assume that she's gotten some good advice and a good background, which other girls might not have," said Dupcak, who was a member of the national championship team at Maryland in 1992. "I can't wait until she comes to school."

Having a collegiate goalie coach as your father is a commodity few keepers in the area have, and one that the Finnegan children frequently utilize.

"He's such a good source for knowledge," Colin Finnegan. "I know that after every game, I can call him and ask for tips."

St. Mary's boys lacrosse coach Mike Burnett said he thinks Colin's aggressive style is a byproduct of his father's counseling.

"He's an extremely hard worker, and he's hard on himself when the ball goes in the net," Burnett said. "He's got a great teacher in his father."

Although his job as a senior first officer with US Airways means leaving home about four days a week, Ray Finnegan said he is never too far from a phone to check up on his children.

"I'm very anxious to find out what they've done," Finnegan said.

Chimed in Kathleen Finnegan: "The first question is `How are you?' then `How's school?' and `How's lacrosse?' " she said jokingly. "But it's cool. It's nice to have somebody to talk to after the game."

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