Terps goalie MacMath takes role beyond age

Coppin meets Morgan in rematch of last year's upset

State Notebook

December 03, 2008|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

It didn't take Maryland freshman Zack MacMath long to find his niche - on and off the soccer field.

MacMath, the Terps' freshman goalie, leads his third-ranked team into the NCAA quarterfinals Saturday against No. 2 Creighton. With the youngster in the nets, Maryland (20-3) has won 16 straight games en route to what the school hopes will be its second national championship in four years.

"Zack is real young but with a good understanding of the game," Terps coach Sasho Cirovski said. "He can read what's happening, he has a calming presence and he is mature beyond his [17] years."

Well, sometimes. Quite the cut-up, MacMath likes to play jokes on teammates. His favorite ruse is to send text messages to unsuspecting players, pretending to be a female student showing personal interest.

"I lead them on, saying stuff I can't repeat here," MacMath said. "And I do it during pregame meals, where the guy I'm texting is right across the table so I can see his face.

"Usually he catches on - after about an hour."

MacMath's shenanigans break the tension as Maryland marches through the playoffs.

"He's a funny little prankster," Cirovski said. "Zack's confidence has grown each game. He made a huge save against California last game," a 2-1 victory.

In the 18 games he has played, MacMath has allowed nine goals. Though a rookie, the St. Petersburg, Fla. native draws on the experience of having starred for U.S. youth teams that competed in China, Spain, Mexico and other countries.

Now he's a mainstay of a Terps squad that faces Creighton (16-1-2) at Ludwig Field (1 p.m.). The teams met earlier this year in an exhibition that ended in a scoreless tie.

"Am I nervous? Yeah, a little bit," MacMath said. "But getting to this tournament has always been my dream."

Getting razzed by teammates helps relieve the stress, he said:

"They joke that I'm the only one here who's not old enough to vote."

Remember last year

Nine months later, Tywain McKee can still see his last-ditch shot slide through the net, sealing Coppin State's upset 62-60 victory over Morgan State and sending the Eagles to the NCAA basketball tournament.

When the schools meet again on Saturday, McKee knows what will be on Morgan's mind.

"They want to beat us by 50," Coppin's star point guard said.

"I don't know about that," said Morgan coach Todd Bozeman, who'd rather his team forego the past. "It's not hard for me to tell my team to forget last year. Whether or not they receive that message is something else."

Coppin (1-3) has lost three straight; Morgan (2-6) has dropped four in a row. Not that records matter when these crosstown rivals play.

"You don't have to get motivated for Morgan-Coppin because of the past," Coppin coach Fang Mitchell said. "Morgan will be ready whether they had won or lost that night [in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship game] in March."

Nonetheless, as the teams brace for the opening tip, McKee will be staring down the homestanding Bears.

"Right before the game, I want to look at [Morgan's] players' faces," he said. "I want to look in their eyes to see if there's fear - or fire."

Game time is 4 p.m. at Hill Field House.

Building a team, too

Shanae Baker-Brice spent last summer doing labor for her family's construction firm. She knocked out ceilings, put up drywall and hammered away, day after day.

Now Baker-Brice is captain of Towson State's basketball team and its No. 1 scorer. Who better to help build a program to be reckoned with?

"Shanae is our go-to player," said Towson coach Joe Mathews, whose team sprinted to a 4-0 start. "She is extremely athletic, with a competitive nature and a fearless mentality. Her favorite player is [Detroit's] Allen Iverson and her in-your-face game mirrors that. She is totally fearless."

A junior guard, Baker-Brice is averaging 18.3 points for the Tigers, whose 22-10 finish last year was Towson's best ever.

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