Each week, The Sun publishes a Q&A with an area college lacrosse player to get you more acquainted with the player and his/her team. Today's guest is Salisbury senior goalkeeper Johnny Rodriguez, a Gambrills native and Mount St. Joseph graduate who ranks sixth in Division III with a 5.99 goals-against average.
Although he pulled you in favor of senior Tim Swinburn in the second quarter of the team's eventual 16-14 win against Stevenson in the Capital Athletic Conference tournament final, coach Jim Berkman said you are still the starting goalkeeper. How much confidence did that vote of confidence give you?
My relationship with my coach is kind of like my relationship with my team in the fact that I know my team trusts me to be the go-to guy, and my coach does, too. But it definitely meant a lot to me. It keeps me going.
When you were replaced, did you wonder if you had lost the starting job for the rest of the season?
No. I obviously wasn't playing my best game, but when I got pulled, he told me that I was going back in after five minutes. But Timmy got hot and wasn't letting in anything. So it was an obvious call by Coach to keep him in there.
How much pressure is there on you to play well enough to deter the coaches from making another move in the net?
I don't really look at it as pressure. I look at it as an opportunity. This is my third year, and May is all about the "War on the Shore" [tha annual game between Salisbury and Washington, which takes place Saturday] and the playoffs. This is what all the hard work is about. We've been on campus since Jan. 3 playing lacrosse, and that's not even mentioning all of the offseason workouts at 6 a.m. in the freezing cold and all of the running we did every day. It's more about your team, hard work and effort.
How much does the loss to Tufts in last year's NCAA title game still gnaw at you and your teammates?
At the beginning of the year, it was definitely in our heads, and it still is now. To throw away an opportunity like that is something that we'll always remember and will always be nagging at us. All we can do is get that opportunity again and not let it go by us. But it's something that is definitely making us work harder.
Is this current Salisbury team equipped to make another run to the championship final?
I think this is the best team I've ever been a part of. We've got great leadership on this team, and I think everybody — from the freshmen to the seniors — is on the same page and everybody is giving 100 percent. We're trying to get to that No. 1 goal, which is winning the national championship and not just getting there.