- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 16, 2009

Brian Phipps was just 8 years old when he first received a sense of what might lie in his lacrosse future.

His clinic team’s goalie moved up a level. To fill that spot, his coach came up with a multifaceted solution.

“My friend and I stepped in,” Phipps said. “When he played goalie, I played attack. When I played goalie, he played midfield.”

Phipps’ days as an attackman are long gone, but those early experiences were not the last time he would participate in a time share in the cage. The junior emerged in the past month as Maryland’s top goalie after splitting time the past three seasons. He’ll likely start Saturday as the Terrapins (10-6) meet second-seeded Syracuse (13-2) in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals in Hempstead, N.Y.

It’s the latest twist in a seemingly never-ending goalie saga in College Park, and one appropriately wacky for a guy whose interest in the position was fostered because he was eager to fit in with his brother’s friends. Michael Phipps, an honorable mention All-American as an attackman at Maryland in 2007, is three years older than Brian. When Michael was a sixth-grader pelting a goal with tennis balls with his buddies, Brian tried to etch a spot in their games.

“We said, ‘You’re getting in goal,’ and he was crazy enough to step in there and take some of our shots,” Michael Phipps said. “We’d look at each other and say, ‘This kid is going to be pretty good.’ ”

Many games and even more bruises later, Brian Phipps emerged as one of a pair of can’t-miss goalies in his class from Anne Arundel County. Michael Gvozden landed at Johns Hopkins, Phipps at Maryland.

Phipps started much of his freshman season after incumbent Harry Alford and backup Jason Carter suffered injuries. Alford took back the job for the final three games of 2007. Carter and Phipps split games last spring, a process that evolved into alternating games this year.

Of late, though, playing time has shifted toward Phipps. Carter had some nagging injuries in April, struggled during an ACC tournament loss to North Carolina and fell ill the next week. Phipps kept Maryland in its one-goal loss to Johns Hopkins and quieted Penn and Yale late in the regular season.

Then came Sunday’s maestro performance. Phipps stopped nine shots in a 7-3 defeat of undefeated Notre Dame, helping Maryland become the only unseeded team to reach the quarterfinals. Since April, Phipps has stopped 61.3 percent of his shots.

“Brian’s always been a talented goalie,” coach Dave Cottle said. “That freshman year, Brian started and played outstanding. We just had a situation where we felt we had two guys who could play. We still feel we have two guys we should play.”

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