February 24, 2013

Terps, New Keeper Howard Put Clamps on Duke

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Related: Live Blog Replay

First-year starting goalie Kasey Howard, a backup for the last three years behind All-American Brittany Dipper, has asserted herself as the anchor of the Terps' defense.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A good goalie is patient. She doesn't take fakes, and she doesn't let mistakes rattle her. She maintains good position, reacts to shots and makes saves.

Kasey Howard has been very patient. The Maryland senior spent the last three years backing up Brittany Dipper, a first-team All-American keeper who helped the Terps to the 2010 NCAA championship. Howard was a valued practice player, but only saw a handful of minutes on game day before this year.

In 2013, she finally has gotten got the starting nod, over sophomore Abbey Clipp. Howard has started Maryland's first three games, helped the Terps to a 3-0 record and has an 8.00 goals allowed average. Howard made seven saves in Maryland's 15-6 victory Sunday over ACC archrival Duke. Her evolution from understudy to a featured player is complete.

"It's been really, really exciting. It's something I've been working towards ever since I've been here," Howard said after the game. "So it's really fun to get out there with the team that I've been with for four years and actually play on the field. It's a really big honor just to be out there and playing. It's been fun so far."

Before Sunday's game, Howard earned ACC Defensive Player of the Week honors for her career-best 11 saves in the Terps' 19-11 upset of Syracuse on Feb. 17.

Howard was a star goalie coming out of Broadneck (Md.) High School, memorably making 17 saves in an 11-9 win against the storied Mt. Hebron Program in the 2009 District V 11-9 championship game. In College Park, however, Howard was relegated to being Dipper's backup. Those three years were not wasted time, though. Howard spent practice after practice facing shots from one of the best offenses in the nation. When her chance to start arrived, she was well-prepared.

"Kasey's really stepped forward and has been anchoring our defense. She's a great communicator in our D," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said.

Sophomore midfielder Brooke Griffin led the Terps with three goals and two assists in the victory over Duke. She also leads Howard's cheering section. Griffin and Howard are both from Anne Arundel County, and Griffin is thrilled to see her old friend starting for the Terps.

"Kasey is awesome. She's always happy, always positive back in the goal. She's always talking, and her energy just carries around the field. She's an amazing goalie. She's just stepped up," Griffin said.

Howard inherited the benefit of a veteran defense, with seniors Meg Douty, Iliana Sanza and Kristen McAfee. Sanza, the 2012 IWLCA Defender of the Year, said the transition from the Dipper era to the Howard era has been smooth. At 5-foot-2, Howard is four inches shorter than Dipper and thus plays higher on the crease, but otherwise accommodating a new goalie hasn't required major adjustments.

"Kasey's really out there communicating and having big saves. Our defense starts our offense, so it's a big momentum shift when she makes those saves," Sanza said.

Versus Duke, Maryland's defense had a nearly flawless first half, pressuring the Blue Devils to take rushed shots and make bad decisions. At the break, the Terps led 9-2. McAfee led the defense with two caused turnovers. Star midfielders Katie Schwarzmann and Taylor Cummings each contributed a pair of caused turnovers as well.

Midway through the game, the Blue Devils rallied and went on a 5-1 run to close the gap to 10-6 at 14:36. Maryland coach Cathy Reese called a time out and asked the defense to regroup. They shut out the Blue Devils for the rest of the game. Howard had four saves in the second half.

"We just needed to stick with our regular defense – getting out on the 8 and talking a lot. Just being there for each other and having each other's slides, nothing out of the ordinary," Howard said.

Just a unit with a new goalie.

"They've gelled together well right now," Reese said of the defense, "So it's working, and we're going to keep going with it."

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