Goalies will play key role in Hofstra-Hopkins first-round tilt

Bassett, Gvozden have contrasting styles but mutual respect

May 12, 2011|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

As goalkeepers for their respective teams, Pierce Bassett of Johns Hopkins and Andrew Gvozden of Hofstra won't tangle with each other the way a pair of faceoff specialists will. They won't be involved in a game-long chase, like when a long-stick midfielder shadows a midfielder.

But their performances in an NCAA tournament first-round contest between the visiting Pride and the No. 3 seed Blue Jays on Saturday at noon at Homewood Field could go a long way in determining which team will advance to the quarterfinal round.

"An essential part of any team making a run to a championship is a solid, if not 'hot', goaltender," ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon said. "They will be significant factors. Their respective defenses do a good job of limiting quality shot opportunities. So when they need to make the saves, they have to step up. I think Hopkins and Hofstra will put pressure on these keepers as well, especially in transition. Often times, the difference between winning and losing a lacrosse game is one big save — or not."

Scoring could be rare Saturday, as both netminders are among the nation's best in goals-against average and save percentage.

Gvozden leads Division I in goals-against average (5.70) and ranks second in save percentage (.621). Bassett isn't far behind, sitting third in goals-against (6.71) and sixth in save percentage (.586). They and Notre Dame sophomore John Kemp are the only goalies who rank in the top six in both departments.

But that's where the similarities tend to run out. Gvozden, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound junior who graduated from Severna Park, is regarded as a fiery competitor who carries his high-energy spirit wherever he goes. Bassett, a sophomore who hails from Arizona, uses his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame to fill the cage and is deceptively quick for a player of his size.

Even their coronation as starters took different routes. After starting 13 games as a freshman, Gvozden was relegated to a rotation with then-freshman Rob Bellairs, splitting 14 starts between them.

But after watching Gvozden record a season-high 13 saves in an 11-8 loss to Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament last May, Pride coach Seth Tierney stated unequivocally that Gvozden would begin the season as the full-time starter.

"I thought at that point in time, 'You know what? Maybe he deserves it. And maybe this will be a little bit of weight off of his shoulders, to know that he's the starter,' " Tierney recalled. "He's a mature enough kid that he understood that he was going to have to work really hard because this news might have sent Rob Bellairs, who is another talented goalie, into working extremely hard. But to know that you're the starter, there's a little bit of a sense of relief there. And Andrew handled it very well."

Gvozden, who talks to older brother Michael, a former goalkeeper at Johns Hopkins prior to each game, cited his six-save performance in Hofstra's 11-9 win against Princeton on Feb. 26 as the turning point of his season.

"We still came out on top, but that's when I was tested the most mentally," Gvozden said. "I wasn't sure if it was going to be another one of these seasons where I was flopped in and out. But it really did force me to see how mentally strong I was because after that, I started kicking my save percentage up and my other numbers up."

Unlike his counterpart, Bassett became the full-time starter midway through last season, replacing Michael Gvozden after eight starts.

Bassett said he still gets nervous before games, but cited last year's experience as a solid foundation.

"I think it helped, being able to go out there and play against some great teams last year so that I wasn't getting thrown in," Bassett said. "I thought it was a big help to be able to play in some big games and play some full games."

In addition to becoming more vocal on the field, Bassett is asserting himself in the film room, according to Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala.

"When we watched film last year, you'd sit and talk with him and say, 'We're in the wrong defense.' Or 'We need to do this here,'" Pietramala said. "Now he has a much greater and broader understanding of that, and he can do it much easier on his own. The great thing is he's still a young guy who has growing to do physically, emotionally, and he can still improve. He wants to be out there, he wants to see shots, he wants to improve and get better and help the team."

Both goalies understand that the postseason fate of their teams could depend on their play on Saturday. Bassett said the onus is on him to at least match and perhaps even surpass Gvozden's performance.

"Their goalie is playing lights out this year, and they've got a very good defense as well," Bassett said. "He's one of the top goalies in the NCAA right now, and their defense is playing their best right now. So that just raises the bar for us. We have to play just as well as them. I'm looking to play my game and play hard."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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