- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 6, 2006

Rich D’Andrea knew in the spring of 2005 that he wanted to come back for a fourth season at Georgetown and help the Hoyas reach the final four.

He just didn’t want to be the team’s starting goalie when it happened. So D’Andrea switched to defensive midfield in the offseason, a move that permitted him to unleash his athleticism in the field while allowing the Hoyas to slide sophomore Miles Kass into the cage this spring.

That was the ideal scenario. But after Kass injured his knee in late March, D’Andrea switched sticks and moved back into the crease for the No. 5 Hoyas (9-2, 5-1 ECAC), who visit No.16 Penn State (8-4, 5-1) today.

With Kass hurting for much of April, D’Andrea has a 6.31 goals-against average and a .578 save percentage while leading the Hoyas to key victories over Navy and Massachusetts.

“It all happened really quickly,” D’Andrea said. “I kind of knew the deal. If Miles ended up hurt, there was a definite possibility I would jump back in. When he got hurt that Tuesday, it was probably lucky since it didn’t give me too much time to think about it. I didn’t want to get caught up in anything but the score.”

Especially since tight games had prompted the position change in the first place. Georgetown lost in the NCAA quarterfinals the last four seasons, and the last two defeats were especially excruciating. Syracuse scored in the last 10 seconds to oust the Hoyas in 2004, and Maryland beat them in overtime last year.

D’Andrea played well in both losses, but the frustration of coming up a goal short lingered. So he asked Georgetown coach Dave Urick if he could move to midfield, a position he played in an indoor league before joining the Hoyas.

“Just the nature of the position, it’s high pressure,” said D’Andrea, who is one of three fifth-year seniors on Georgetown’s roster along with midfielders Dave Paolisso and Mike White. “I’d had enough at the end of the season. I decided I needed to change positions or I was not going to be happy.”

The move seemed to work out well. Kass played well as the Hoyas rolled to a 5-1 start, and D’Andrea quickly picked up the nuances of field play. No longer confined to the crease, D’Andrea twice came close to a goalie’s dream — scoring a goal — but once hit the pipe and once missed the cage, much to his teammates’ amusement.

With a new position and a light course load (D’Andrea is taking an English class on Charles Dickens and serving a commercial real estate internship), it appeared his final season would not feature the same stress as the past. But when Kass was injured, D’Andrea stepped in and made 11 saves in a 9-5 victory at Navy.

“I’ve never had this type of situation,” Urick said. “It’s pretty unique, and I’ve been doing this a long time. It really does give you an insurance policy. It really allows you to sleep a lot better at night since it’s an awfully key position.”

D’Andrea hasn’t stopped since, turning in one of the most consistent stretches of his career. He backed up the Navy game with 15 saves against UMass.

Beyond today, there is uncertainty. Kass is inching closer to full health and could be ready for the NCAA tournament.

“I’m not exactly sure what we’ll do,” Urick said. “If Rich has a vote, he’ll probably want to go back to the midfield. It’s kind of tough to go back to midfield when you’re 4-0 with the kid in the cage.”

Added White: “I think that at first, he thought it was going to be a game or two just to get Miles healthy. Then it ended up being more. It doesn’t bug him. He still kind of wants to be running around. He still has to get his goal.”

That won’t happen as a goalie, where the pressure remains but doesn’t seem to bother D’Andrea as much.

Maybe it’s since he is unsure how many more games he’ll play in goal, and maybe it is connected to the reason he wanted to play a fifth season. After all, reaching the final four is more important to D’Andrea than what position he plays.

“It pretty much means everything,” D’Andrea said. “We’ve been so close three of the four years. We’ve either lost in overtime or the last seconds. That’s pretty tough to swallow. The goal is to get to the final four and win a couple games there. It would be nice for all that hard work to pay off.”

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