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Terrapins’ Amato not hindered by youth
Maryland goalie off to a fast start
Question of the Day
Every now and then, the current Terrapins goalie makes sure to remind his mentor.
It’s an unusual blend of certainty and talent that connects the two. Dougherty was a two-time national goalie of the year in the mid-1990s. Amato, who worked with Dougherty while growing up in the Philadelphia area, wouldn’t mind doing better.
“He called me up and said ‘How many state championships did you win? One? I just won my second’ and he hung up on me,” Dougherty recalled this week. “Niko doesn’t just want to be the starting goalie for the Terps. He wants to be a first-team All-American and best goalie ever. I’ve always seen that in him.”
Amato’s off to a promising start.
After redshirting last year, Amato ranks second nationally in goals-against average (6.11) and seventh in save percentage (.599) as No. 4 Maryland (8-2) enters Saturday’s date with No. 3 Johns Hopkins (8-2) at Byrd Stadium.
It is perhaps Amato’s most high-profile game yet, and the first contest in a rivalry that claims to be the best in college lacrosse to be played in College Park since 2007.
It’s always a spotlight game, but Amato’s rapid maturation has helped the Terps recover from March losses to Duke and North Carolina to carry a two-game winning streak into their meeting with the Blue Jays.
Amato admitted there was some anxiety after sitting out last season, though he felt more comfortable after a preseason scrimmage at Syracuse. Amato had held off junior Mark White for the starting job but was a freshman with three seniors starting on close defense and fifth-year senior Brian Farrell at long pole.
“It was kind of a tricky spot because in one way you can look at it as ‘Wow, there’s all these veteran guys. Really, all I have to do is save the ball, because those guys can run the defense,’” Maryland coach John Tillman said. “So really, the pressure was off. But, there’s also the point ‘I’m a freshman and these guys are all seniors and I have to prove myself.’”
Quality performances, such as a 19-save effort in a loss to Duke and a 12-save afternoon at Virginia, didn’t hurt, either.
“All my life, I’ve been the same age as the rest of my defense,” Amato said. “Now with guys being three or four years older than me, at first it was a little slow. I kind of deferred to them. But they’ve been real good with me. They told me one day after a game ‘You’re the goalie, you need to be barking out the orders. You’ve got to be telling us what to do. You’re the leader of the defense.’”
“It was the fastest of anyone,” said Dougherty, now the coach at Division II Chestnut Hill. “I do this a lot. I worked with a couple hundred goalies. Nobody got it as fast. Niko, he understood everything.”
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About the Author
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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