Blevins saving best for last

Undersized goalie, Tewaaraton candidate looking to help net UMBC America East title, third straight appearance in NCAA tournament

May 01, 2008|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN REPORTER

In his three seasons as the starting goalkeeper for the UMBC men's lacrosse team, Jeremy Blevins has stared down the likes of Johns Hopkins, Maryland and Princeton.

His toughest adversaries, however, just might be his housemates.

Blevins shares an off-campus house with five other juniors in defensemen Bobby Atwell, Brian Schneider and Steve Settembrino and midfielders Mike Burch and Alex Hopmann. Blevins and Hopmann are considered the "neat freaks" who find themselves in seemingly daily battles to keep the house clean.

"They're always yelling that people aren't taking the trash out," Atwell said with a laugh. " ... Sometimes we just leave it because we know they'll get mad enough to clean it themselves sooner or later."

Said Blevins, a Cockeysville native and Calvert Hall graduate: "Normally, Hop [Hopmann] gets to it first, but if I see Hop doing it, I'll help pick it up with Hop. I don't really consider myself clean or neat. I just consider them lazy slobs pretty much."

Blevins has been cleaning up on the field, too. Coach Don Zimmerman has cited Blevins as a significant reason the No. 7 Retrievers (10-3) have won nine consecutive games and are the top seed in the America East tournament, which begins today at UMBC.

Second-seeded Stony Brook (7-6) and third-seeded Albany (7-7) will play at 4 p.m. with the Retrievers and fourth-seeded Binghamton (4-7) scheduled to play at 7:30 p.m.

Although Blevins is tied for 28th in the country in goals-against average (8.74) and 35th in save percentage (.543), Zimmerman said the goalie has been instrumental in UMBC's reversal from a 1-3 start.

"I just see his presence," Zimmerman said. "He's attacking the ball. I watch for a few minutes [during pre-game warm-ups], and I like what I see. I think Jeremy's in a good spot mentally, seeing the ball, confident of himself, confident of the guys in front of him. And that can make a difference in tough ballgames, which we're going to see this year."

Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of Blevins' play is his size. Listed in the team's media guide at 5 feet 8 and 135 pounds - "Yeah, that's embellished a little bit," Blevins acknowledged - Blevins seems to embody the antithesis of the large, wide goalkeeper favored by other coaches.

Zimmerman, who sold Blevins on committing to the Retrievers instead of Maryland and Towson, is quick to point out that while at Hopkins, he coached a 5-8, 155-pound goalie named Quint Kessenich, who became a two-time first-team All-American. Blevins said he never gave much thought to his size.

"I was just worried about playing as well as I could," he said. "I figured if I played as well as I could, something would happen for me. It's not the end of the world."

Blevins' performance this season has caught the attention of the Tewaaraton Award Foundation, which named Blevins one of 22 nominees for the Tewaaraton Trophy given to the country's most outstanding player. Blevins is one of only four goalkeepers (Brown's Jordan Burke, Army's Adam Fullerton and Notre Dame's Joey Kemp are the others) contending for the award.

"That's a pretty elite group right there," Blevins said. "It's pretty good, I'm not going to lie. I shrug it off and make it seem like it's not a big deal, but it's pretty cool."

UMBC's best hope of a third straight NCAA tournament bid is securing the automatic qualifier that comes with winning the America East tournament. Blevins will need to continue his level of play, but his teammates said they have no worries.

"He just keeps getting hotter and hotter," Atwell said. "We know now that even if we make a mistake, Jeremy's going to be there to make the save for us."

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