Martial art gave Buote her focus

April 27, 2007|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Reporter

When Allie Buote was 9 years old, she wanted to be a Ninja Turtle.

Jumping on the couch and leaping across the room, she mimicked the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles she saw on TV. She was dying to take karate lessons, so her parents enrolled her in taekwondo for her birthday.

"My mom didn't think I'd actually stick with it," Buote said with a laugh.

She did. She loved it. By 12, she had earned a black belt. By 14, she had a first-degree black belt.

All the while, Buote was learning a host of skills and strategies that would help her with the sport she had a passion for most - lacrosse. Instead of becoming a Ninja Turtle, Buote became a Maryland Terrapin.

The starting goalie for the nation's No. 2-ranked women's lacrosse team, Buote (pronounced bee' watt) has found that taekwondo instruction has made her a better goalkeeper, both physically and mentally.

"From karate, I definitely had good reflexes," she said. "We did a lot of stuff like footwork and sparring, which is good because you have to react to what the other person does and act back. I think that, speed-wise, it helped me with my decision making."

She grew up playing a lot of team sports, including soccer and basketball, but karate was different.

"Taekwondo is just you. Me in the middle of the floor. Me fighting someone else. It was like you get used to listening to yourself and making your own decisions," said the St. Mary's graduate.

The mental focus she gained has come in handy this season because, despite going 14-2 and earning the top seed going into today's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal against No. 6 Virginia, the Terrapins have given up a lot of goals.

Buote, a junior, has allowed 10.24 goals per game and has a .468 save percentage.

Giving up 18 goals to Duke on March 3 could have rattled Buote, but Maryland coach Cathy Reese said her performance late in the game helped the Terps come away with a 19-18 win.

"I know a lot of goals have been scored," Reese said, "but I just have so much confidence in her and her ability to make big saves. There've been clutch times when she's come up with huge saves that have made the difference in the game for us."

Three weeks later on March 24, Buote made 13 saves to hold then-No. 1 North Carolina, a team averaging 14.63 goals per game at the time, to just six in an 8-6 Terps win.

While Buote is an athletic, technically-solid goalie, Reese said, her mental toughness has been critical.

"She can shake things off and get back into our game," Reese said. "She's not one of those goalies where you can score on her early and you're going to take her out of her game. She's tough and she truly wants to take her team far by being that anchor on defense."

Buote has faced a lot of shots this season, due in part to a new defensive unit that needed time to develop. Senior defender Becky Clipp said the defense relies on her for direction.

"Even if she's not playing her best, she's still so encouraging," Clipp said. "I really appreciate that."

Buote is thankful for a high-scoring Terps offense, which averages 15.44 goals per game - fifth best in the nation.

She can be hard on herself at times, but she also has a good perspective on life in the cage.

"Sometimes you have a great game and you don't end up on top, so I'd rather have 18 goals scored on me and still win," Buote said. "Now, we have so many wins and [the Duke] game could have turned our season the other way, because that was our first ACC game."

With so much time taken up with lacrosse and her studies in criminology, Buote doesn't have time to practice taekwondo now, but she plans to return to it after graduation next spring. In addition to the athletic benefits, it's also the perfect outlet for stress once her lacrosse career ends.

"You could go from being in school all day, frustrated, and just go kick stuff for a while and it was like, `I feel a lot better now,'" she said with a laugh.

ACC women

What -- Atlantic Coast Conference women's lacrosse tournament

Where -- Chapel Hill, N.C.

Top seed -- Maryland

Defending champion --Virginia

Yesterday's first round --North Carolina 18, Va. Tech 7; Virginia 15, Boston College 7

Today's semifinals -- No. 3 Duke (13-2) vs. No. 5 North Carolina (14-3), 3 p.m.; No. 2 Maryland (14-2) vs. No. 6 Virginia (14-3), 5:30 p.m.

Sunday's final -- 1 p.m.

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