- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2012

John Kemp stopped 14 shots in Sunday’s NCAA tournament quarterfinal as Notre Dame outlasted Virginia. Then, as usual, he started to hear from his older brothers.

C.J. Kemp led Fairfield to its first NCAA berth in 2002. Joey Kemp was a first-team All-America pick at Notre Dame in 2008.

“They are the last people I talk to before a game and the first people I talk to after a game,” John Kemp said. “I have an iPhone group message throughout the day. I’m talking to them 24/7. The support group I have from them is something I’m really grateful for.”

Toss in oldest brother Rob, and the chatter never stops among the Kemp brothers. They’ll talk about the NFL draft and the upcoming election, a nonstop discussion that does have one frequent topic.

“A lot of it is around John and the Notre Dame team and whatnot. It’s pretty much an ongoing conversation,” Joey Kemp said before joking, “Our spouses and my fiancee, they don’t really appreciate it very much.”

Anyone, though, can appreciate John Kemp’s dominant junior season.

Kemp was named a first-team All-American on Thursday, and the Potomac native and Georgetown Prep product leads the nation in goals against average (6.22) and save percentage (.636). He and the fourth-seeded Fighting Irish (13-2) face top-seeded Loyola (16-1) on Saturday in Foxborough, Mass., in the final four.

“He’s the best goalie in the country,” Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. “He shows it game after game. I wouldn’t even get into a conversation about who is second because he’s been consistently terrific all year long.”

So much of his success goes back to simply following his brothers. C.J. Kemp volunteered to play goalie for a team when he was in fifth grade, and Joey and John later picked up the position as well.

The three would take turns shooting on each other on a goal in the back yard, afternoons between the pipes sometimes extending into evening. John Kemp was playing with sixth graders when he was in the third grade, and the step up in competition helped him get over the initial anxiety of being pelted.

“I think his technique is very, very good,” Joey Kemp said. “He’s committed everything to muscle memory where he’s seen a shot coming at 100 miles an hour and his first instinct is to react quickly. He’s very calm. I don’t know if that stems from being the youngest of seven kids, but he just keeps to himself.”

A placid demeanor might be John Kemp’s greatest strength. In two seasons as a full-time starter, he’s allowed 10 goals in a game only twice and four goals in a quarter on just six occasions. The rare miscue is rarely compounded by another.

“That really helps with the defense and doing what we need to do,” Kemp said. “Going along with that, letting in a goal doesn’t really faze me. But I think the idea that it’s a team effort is also important. I’m thankful that I kind of take it on that way.”

Corrigan observed after Sunday’s victory that it’s easy to attribute much of Kemp’s success to the Irish’s notoriously stingy defense - and just how incorrect it would be to do so. While Kemp rarely allows bad shots into the goal, he’s also stout at preparing for opponents and stopping powerful outside shots.

“I think our defense would be less effective if we thought we had to defend every shot from 16 yards,” defenseman Kevin Randall said. “He can easily gobble up those outside shots.”

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