It's not always the most glamorous position, one noticed more for mistakes made than games won. But with the distinctive uniforms, the face-obstructing masks, and that adrenaline-fueled desire to be the last line of defense against a near-continuous barrage, these four girls have made names for themselves as Long Island's steeliest gatekeepers. Forget the Avengers. The crew assembled here? They're the Goaltenders.
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She likes it better that way, you know. With the other team's best player bearing down on her and shot after shot coming in her direction, Meg Gulmi doesn't -- nay, steadfastly refuses -- to flinch.
"I love the adrenaline rush," she said. "Knowing it's all up to you. I like that pressure. I don't like stasis. I don't like being dormant. I like everything coming at me."
And it's happened. On April 21, she recorded 22 saves against Mineola. On April 16, she had 19 against Calhoun and twice notched 17 saves this season. Gulmi, a senior committed to the University of Cincinnati, has 170 saves through 15 games, and was ranked No. 8 in a national preseason poll.
"She saves the ball on her head some days," said coach Diane Malley, still incredulous, even after seeing her do it for four years. No hat tricks -- Gulmi has a magic all her own: "It's unbelievable some of the saves she comes up with," Malley said. "She works tirelessly at her craft."
Gulmi is an anomaly in that she's a lefty, and an extra anomaly in that she seems to have two personalities -- effervescently bubbly outside of the cage and all intensity when she puts her pads on. She plays year-round and started at goal when her sixth-grade PAL team was short a keeper. Her determination has spread to her team, which now also practices in the offseason.
"I spend about 50 percent of my time thinking about lacrosse," she said. "And I've always had that crazy instinct to be a goalie."
St. Anthony's, Sr.
Asked the other day what her greatest strength is as a goalkeeper, Tori Holland, typically eloquent, paused . . . for 23 seconds. For once, the future Ivy Leaguer was stumped.
"She's so good," St. Anthony's teammate Annie Lynch said, "the better question is, 'What isn't she good at?' "
Opponents have wondered the same since the senior, bound for Brown University, became a starter in 2010.
"I'm patient on clears," is what Holland eventually came up with.
True, as evidenced in the Friars' April 28 win over Garden City when Holland held the ball for nearly a minute at the end of the first half before unleashing a pinpoint pass that led to a goal in the final seconds.
There's also the athleticism and aggressiveness, stutter-stepping and zigzagging opponents in the crease after clears. "I'm not the fastest out there," said Holland, a former basketball and soccer player, "but I can move a little bit."
And, you know, she can stop some shots -- 120 thus far, to be exact. "She's poised and can read body language," Lynch said. "She knows people's tendencies and where they're going to shoot."
But it's the big-game performances that have Holland in discussions about Long Island's best goalie. For example: 36 saves, and with a .690 percentage, in a 3-0 stretch last month against nationally-ranked teams. St. Anthony's, with its four straight CHSAA titles and success versus a grueling schedule, has earned the No. 4 national ranking, in large part because of the goalie.
"She's saved our butts plenty of times," Friars coach Corinne Lomangino said. "Her best strength is consistency. She's consistently awesome."
So, that suggested question becomes almost a rhetorical one. What isn't she good at?
Garden City, Sr.
Megan McDonald had just wowed the coaches in tryouts. In their eyes, the potential she showed all but cemented the sophomore as the next big thing. So McDonald was given the option: remain a starter on junior varsity or join Garden City's varsity team and wait for her turn.
"She chose to be here," Trojans coach Diane Chapman said, "so we carried three goalies."
It became a two-year apprenticeship for McDonald, now a senior. She soon learned that playing time is sparse for a third-string goalie on a championship team, particularly when the starter, Kelly Weis, was a two-time All-American.
"But," McDonald said with a grin, "I was an All-American water girl!"
With limited playing time, "the practices were all the more important," Chapman said, "and she took it seriously."
The lack of game experience was offset by having to block shots from superstar teammates, including Mikaela Rix, Caroline Tarzian, Barbara Sullivan, Jenna Fuchs, Alexandra Bruno, et al. "Not only did they shoot hard," McDonald said, "but their placement was great, so I was really tested."
Her performances at camps and showcases made her a sought-after college recruit (she committed to Georgetown) and, before the season, ESPN rated her No. 13 among goalie prospects in the country. Still, there remained the question: With Weis now at Harvard and Erin Mullins at Yale, how well can McDonald handle center stage?
The response, thus far: 101 saves, many of them spectacular, against a schedule full of nationally-ranked opponents, and Garden City securing another conference title. She has earned Weis' "Meg is legit!" stamp of approval.
McDonald's strengths are her agility in the cage, and a "bring it on" attitude, even toward free-position shots.
"She's amazing," Manhasset's All-American attack Halle Majorana said of McDonald. "She's quick and really good at reading moves."
"I've waited a while for this, so I'm enjoying it," McDonald said. "Hopefully I've lived up to the expectations."
She's in the running for Under Armour All-American honors -- and it's not for her water-pouring abilities.
Eastport-South Manor, Fr.
The thing to remember about Samantha Giacolone is that she's a freshman. The other thing to remember is that she's softball royalty. Yes, softball.
Her mother, Theresa, is a former All-American who played for the University of North Carolina, and her father, Steve, is the former Eastport-South Manor softball coach.
"I was sick of softball," she said. "I was a catcher and was very similar. I liked being under pressure. I wanted to be a game changer."
Giacolone became a starter in seventh grade and this year, the two-time All-Long Island goalie has made 134 saves in 14 games (with a .560 save percentage). And lest you think her parents cringed at her upsetting a possible softball dynasty: "I was a very energetic child and lacrosse just had more running," she said. "My parents supported me. They said follow your heart."
Oddly, following her heart has meant relying on her brain. Giacolone is a cerebral keeper who studies opponents and picks apart offenses. Her powers, it seems, lie in prediction.
"I think about my opponents and worry about what offense they're going to run," she said. That forethought has led to her reading shots before they happen.
"It's strategy," Giacolone said. "It's a very mental game."
The expanded universe
There are far more than a handful of standout stoppers on Long Island.
Among them, Emma Salter, who is one of the main reasons Sacred Heart is ranked 28th in the country. Floyd's Chelsey Sidaras, a Fairfield commit, earned All-American honors last year. Diana Rice has helped make Seaford a Class C contender. Sachem North's Erin McNulty, when healthy, is a star. Manhasset's Kelsey Quackenbush has dominated down the stretch, and Michaela Aymong helped lead Northport to its first state Class A title last year.
There are also the up-and-comers, underclassmen making their mark, who will soon be well-known.
Mount Sinai sophomore Julia Michaels has made 134 saves, including 15 in the Mustang's 8-5 victory over Class C rival Shoreham-Wading River. Freshman Lauren Daly has been magnificent, leading a strong Shoreham-Wading River team with 117 saves.
Since sophomore Olivia Kirk became Farmingdale's starter on April 9, they've held opponents to 8.3 goals per game.