Stops just start for 'Hawks' Cattrano

All-around force, goalie faces Cannons tonight

Pro Lacrosse

August 25, 2002|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

When Boston Cannons coach Scott Hiller looks at the Bayhawks' roster, he sees the best attackman in the league, one of its best midfielders and perhaps the best lacrosse player of all time.

And then he eventually comes to the player he fears the most.

"Our biggest concern is Greg Cattrano. He's the best goalie in the league right now, by far," said Hiller, whose Cannons will play the Bayhawks tonight at 7 at Ravens Stadium in the Major League Lacrosse semifinals.

The league leader in wins with 10, Cattrano is a lock to win MLL Goalie of the Year honors for a second straight season, and in a league with rules that cater to goal scorers, the Bayhawks' goal stopper has convinced many he is the league's MVP.

"There have been a lot of games where he's carried us early and allowed us to get in a flow," said Bay- hawks player-coach Gary Gait. "It's a great confidence builder for our defense to know if they get beat or give up a shot, there's a good chance that he'll make the save."

The winner of tonight's game will play the Long Island Lizards for the league championship next Sunday at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

The Bayhawks (10-4) coasted to the Nationals Division championship and the top seed in the playoffs. Boston (7-7) won its last four games to qualify, and its reward is a date with a team it has never beaten (0-5) and a goalie it cannot seem to solve.

In two games against the Cannons this season, Cattrano has had 39 saves.

"Every time he makes a big save, it seems to result in a Bayhawks goal at the other end. It's just demoralizing," Hiller said.

Nicknamed "The Cat," for his quick reflexes in goal, Cattrano does plenty of damage at both ends.

Appropriately, any talk about the Bayhawks' offense centers on attackman Mark Millon, one of the league's leading scorers; athletic and sharp-shooting midfielder Josh Sims; and, of course, Gait, who at least once a quarter offers a jaw-dropping reminder of the skills that still make him the sport's biggest star.

Mentioning a goalie in that company seems absurd, but Cattrano's ability to venture out of the crease, pick up ground balls, fire quick and precise outlet passes and direct the clearing game certainly gives the Bayhawks another weapon.

"Generating fast breaks is just as important as making a save," said Cattrano, 27. "I feel like I'm better making saves if I'm active outside the crease. It gets my heart rate going, loosens me up a little bit and gets our team fired up. When I'm not running, I'm not playing well."

The style of play correlates with Cattrano's mind-set on the field. He said that he is first and foremost an athlete, not just a lacrosse player and certainly not just a goalie.

Upholding that identity in goal, he wears shorts instead of sweat pants, which are an essential part of the game-day wardrobe for many goalies, saying that the bruises he gets on his legs hurt only after the game.

"I've always thought that every goalie should be the best athlete on the team, and I approach my game that way," said Cattrano, 5 feet 9 and 185 pounds.

"I play this position because it's the most competitive and challenging position out there."

Cattrano, a Port Jefferson, N.Y., native who went to high school at lacrosse powerhouse Ward Melville on Long Island, was a midfielder in his early lacrosse years but switched to goalie when his father's rec team was without one.

He joked that his dad was punishing him by putting him between the pipes, but he credits another family member's display of tough love for making him the player he is now.

Growing up, Greg and his older brother, Kevin, who played at Salisbury State, used to settle arguments with sticks rather than their fists. Greg would get into a back-yard goal and Kevin would step back and rip shots at him. "I had to try to save them," Greg said.

Years later, Cattrano was a two-time All-American at Brown and the NCAA Goalie of the Year in 1997. But he's playing on an entirely different level now.

"This is the best I've played so far, but I know I can play better," Cattrano said. "There's still things that I can improve on, and I'll probably always feel that way until we win a championship."

Bayhawks tonight

Opponent:Boston Cannons

What:Major League Lacrosse semifinals

Site:Ravens Stadium

Time:7

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