In a sport driven by potent scorers, Long Island boasts a stable of girls lacrosse goalkeepers capable of frustrating opposing offenses. Three goalies in particular boast diverse skill sets and can completely alter the flow of an offense.
Abbey Ngai, Cold Spring Harbor
There are few goalies with the same pure athleticism that Ngai displays in the cage, but her skills aren’t just confined to that area. Ngai’s never afraid to leave the crease and kick-start the offense after a big save.
“I would say that I’m a really agile goalie,” she said. “I can come out like another defender who can run the ball and take it up if I have to.”
Ngai began playing lacrosse as a midfielder who would split time in summer league games on the field and in the cage. She said she felt comfortable immediately, though it took practice to build her reaction time to where it is today.
Now it’s commonplace for the senior Boston College commit to make what she calls “showstopper” saves — the ones that leave coaches, players and spectators in awe.
“Sometimes when I make the saves no one really expects, it all has to do with consistency,” she said. “You have to make those saves, but you also have to make the ones you’re expected to make.”
The Seahawks are relying on Ngai to be the backbone of their defense this spring.
Hannah Van Middelem, Mount Sinai
The Mustangs rode a suffocating defense to a state Class C championship last season, and no player was more integral to the postseason run than Van Middelem.
The senior goalie has played varsity since eighth grade and has steadily improved each season. Now she’s one of Long Island’s best and was named to Newsday’s All-Long Island second team last year.
“Her eye-hand coordination is off the charts — great reaction time, great reflexes, great hands,” said coach Al Bertolone. “She has good anticipation. She knows where the shots are coming.”
She’s aided by a defense that channels shots, but even when her teammates get beat on a dodge or cut, Van Middelem can make the type of save that changes momentum.
“She’s a big-game goalie,” Bertolone said. “She makes saves you’re not supposed to make.”
Van Middelem turns defense into offense thanks to a great clear that hits midfielders in stride. She’s patient but also unafraid to take chances down the field, recognizing acceptable times to take risks. More often than not, she makes an accurate pass.
Sarah Reznick, Long Beach
Physical skills aren’t enough to be a successful goalie. An accomplished net minder couples natural talent with an unflappable mindset to lead a defense.
Reznick, a junior named to Newsday’s All-Long Island second team last year, said that the key to her success has been staying focused, even in the offseason.
“I’m always staying motivated all the time, whether it’s in the winter in the freezing cold or the summer when it’s really hot,” she said.
Whatever she does to stay motivated, it works. Reznick can do it all, from moving around outside the cage to making the tough saves on shots from oncoming attackers. She makes smart decisions on clears and calls out slides for her teammates on defense.
But in her opinion, what separates an average goalie from a standout goalie is showing up when it counts.
“The biggest positive for a great goalie is that a great goalie is always in the games,” she said. “When it’s time to stand up and be big, the big goalies make the big saves at the end of games.”