For a program renowned for its offensive prowess, Salisbury’s NCAA title defense could come down to the play of the goalkeeper.
Alex Taylor has been tapped to succeed Johnny Rodriguez, who was named the National Goalkeeper of the Year last spring. The sophomore fared well in the team’s season-opening 19-6 thrashing of Greensboro Sunday, making eight saves on 11 shots before getting pulled early in the fourth quarter.
Prior to that contest, coach Jim Berkman expressed confidence in Taylor, a Woodbine native and Glenelg graduate.
“He’s our No. 1 guy,” Berkman said. “He had a great fall. He played exceptional in the first two weeks of practice. He’s really clearing the ball well, and he’s really made big strides in that area. He plays a lot like Johnny. He may be a little bit smaller, but he’s the same athlete. He’s a kid that can run out of the cage and steal passes and break out on a clear when nobody’s open and run away from attackmen. He has that kind of speed. So we’re real excited about where he’s at and the leadership role he’s taken in the cage. If we weren’t very good on offense, I’d be a little concerned, but it’s a pretty good offensive team with shots from [senior midfielder Sam] Bradman, [senior attackman Matt] Cannone, [senior attackman Tony] Mendes and [senior attackman Erik] Krum, and he’s saving those shots. He’s not going to see any shots harder than those guys’. So he’s done real well, and he’s definitely earned the spot. We’re very confident going with him into the first game.”
Tasked with the assignment of being the last line of defense for a team that many have already penciled in for the NCAA Tournament final in Foxborough, Mass., would seem to be a daunting prospect. But Taylor has the required mental toughness, according to Berkman.
“I don’t worry about that a lot,” he said. “Alex is a player. He’s a real competitive kid. In intramurals, he’s up there at No. 1 in the racquetball ladder because he loves to play racquetball and compete. He kind of thrives on this. … He’s been in the real competitive arena before, and he kind of thrives on that. He’s a gamer.”