This post is the story about my very first save and also the exact moment I fell in love with the position of lacrosse goalie.
For those who haven’t read my intro, I didn’t play lacrosse goalie in high school. I didn’t even play lacrosse.
I joined the Cal’s Men Lacrosse team my freshman year in the spring of 2000. We had a dominate team with a preseason #1 ranking from the USLIA.
We were stacked with All-Americans including attackman John Principi, midfielders Kevin and Chris Moon, and goalie Rob Warner, a personal mentor of mine and the man who taught me the most about playing goalie.
Early on in the season we faced the Colorado State Buffaloes, a very good team, and the #3 seed at the time in a primetime showdown Friday night under the lights at Kleeburger field.
I started that season at middie, only making the switch to goalie earlier that very same week. Our backup goalie tore his ACL and I decided I was up for the task of learning the position.
In the week leading up to the game I took my first shots in goal. I had all the natural habits of a first time goalie: flinching, scared of the ball, not saving anything, etc.
The game against Colorado St. was playing out exactly as advertised. Two top teams going back and forth exchanging leads.
Late in the 3rd quarter with Cal up by a single point, our goalie Rob Warner attempted to corral a loose ball that was just outside the crease. In doing so he made contact with the helmet of a Colorado St. player who had fallen down.
Flags went flying.
Blue 1-7 with the slash, 1 minute. Blue 1-7, slash, 1 minute.
Our coach looked at me with his prototypical wide open and excited eyes – “Damon, you’re in!”
My heart started racing as he told me the man down defense we were going to run. I jogged out onto the field and into cage equipped with the original STX Shield 100 and very little knowledge on how to make a save.
I didn’t even get a single warmup shot. I was as cold as a penguin.
Our man down defense huddled up with everyone’s eyes locked on me, intently waiting for the defensive call. I repeated what our coach told me and it seemed to make sense to everyone.
The game restarted and Colorado St. worked the ball around the perimeter in their man up offense.
After two revolutions of passing, they execute a nice skip pass to the attackman up top who had snuck into some free space at the top of the key, only 10 yards from the goal. He winds up and rips a shot!
Right off my face mask. Our bench goes wild!
The shot ricochets out of bounds and Colorado St. maintains position of the ball.
They restart their man-up offense working it around the circle with crisp passes. I diligently call out the location of the ball on the field as I had learned that week.
After another revolution, an attackman at X drives to the goal from behind the cage. I take my position against the pipe. Luckily this was one of things I’d worked on in whole week I’d been playing goalie.
He takes a shot as a defenseman arrives to lay a hit. I don’t even move. But then again I don’t have to.
The shot hits me in the leg and falls to my feet. Our bench goes even wilder!
The Colorado St. team didn’t really understand why we were getting so pumped up by a couple of saves from the backup goalie. But they didn’t know the story.
I Gilman’d the ball to the other side of the field where a struggle ensued for the loose ball. We lost the struggle but the ball went out of bounds allowing a break in the action. The penalty was killed.
Our starting All-American goalie came back onto the field but not before giving me a huge hug. I was mobbed when I got back to the sideline.
From that moment on, I was in love with the position of lacrosse goalie.
My First Game Ball
The saves during that man-down stretch were incredibly important. We rode that momentum to a 13-11 win over the #3 seed, maintaining our top seed.
I learned a few things that day –
Sometimes making a save is just about being in the right place.
Regardless of how you make the save, your team is going to love you and support you all the same.
I love playing goalie
There’s no sweeter feeling than making a lacrosse save
After the game, our coach gave me the game ball explaining the importance of that penalty kill. I still have the ball to this day and think about that save and that game every time I look at it.
Later on the USLIA website under the stats section my name appeared as the #1 Goalie. With 2 shots against, 2 saves, a perfect 100% save percentage.
I led the league with best save percentage for all lacrosse goalies for the bulk of the season that year until I got into a game later in the year in garbage time and gave up a ton of goals.
But it was certainly a magical run at the top!
Until next time! Coach Damon
Do you remember your first save? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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About Coach Damon
About Coach Damon
Lacrosse is my passion! The game has given me so much and this blog is my way of giving back to the lax community. Specifically the most bad a$$ part of that community - the goalies! After learning to play goalie from scratch, I wanted to create a site where I could share what I learned with others so they too can become champions in the crease and in life. Learn more about Coach Damon.