June 24, 2014

Team USA's Great Goalie Battle Continues

by Sean Burns | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | World Lacrosse 2014

Drew Adams (top), Jesse Schwartzman (middle) and John Galloway (bottom) have pushed each other hard in the race to secure a spot with Team USA. (Photos by John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

For seasoned Major League Lacrosse goaltenders Drew Adams, John Galloway and Jesse Schwartzman, it’s been a while since they’ve been in a proper battle for a job.

But since the job in question involves tossing on a their country’s jersey and taking the net as the backstop for the U.S. men’s national team in its attempt to capture gold on home soil at the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship in Denver, none shows even a moment’s hesitation at the effort being made to secure it.

“It’s actually been exciting to compete because it’s such a big honor to play on this team,” said Adams, a protégé of sorts of Hall of Fame keeper Brian Dougherty, who was Team USA’s goalie in 2010.

Adams, who, like Dougherty, grew up in the Philadelphia area, and has worked the camp circuit with “Doc” and played behind him as a rookie with the then-Long Island Lizards. All three said they looked up to Dougherty growing up.

“It wouldn’t feel right if somebody was just given a spot without having to earn it,” Adams said. “If I’m fortunate enough to make the team, it’ll make me appreciate the experience even more.”

From the original eight goalies invited to tryouts last summer, four made it to the 52-man roster announced last fall. But unlike the faceoff position, from which coaches selected just Chris Eck out of the four who made the first cut, only one goalkeeper, Kip Turner, didn’t make it to the 30-man roster coming out of Champion Challenge.

All three that remain bring as good a resume as one can to the table. Schwartzman and Adams have won four of the past five MLL goalie of the year awards, and Galloway won two NCAA titles on the way to graduating as Syracuse’s all-time wins leader in 2011. Entering the 2014 MLL season, Schwartzman, Adams and Galloway stand at first-, third-, and sixth-place place in goals against average in the league, all-time, respectively.

“The goalies, it's like pick one of them,” Team USA head coach Richie Meade said after Champion Challenge in January. “They're all great. They’re stopping the ball, leading the defense all those types of things. The one thing that has been very, very consistent is the goalies have been very, very good.”

So what will bridge the gap between very good and great for these three as they strive to lock in a roster spot and starting job between now and the first face off against Canada when the games open on July 10 following the event’s opening ceremony?

For starters, all three are thrilled to be getting back to their regular MLL work — not so much for the bumps and bruises that all goalies have to live with, but for the fact that there really isn’t much of anything that mimics live shots like, well, live shots.

“It’s hard to do a game situation when you train. I have an advantage because I coach [at Providence] and have skilled players that I can jump into drills with,” Galloway said. “But for goalies, you really need people out there that you can get that velocity that you’ll see in the cage at the world games. Strength-wise, coach [Jay] Dyer has us as good as I’ve ever felt in my career, but at the end of the day, MLL scenarios and reactions, you can’t see that sort of thing any other way than in a live game.”

All three should get plenty of live reps with their respective teams in the summer. Schwartzman has been the full-time starter for Denver since 2008 and is the reigning MLL goalie of the year for last year’s semifinalists. Adams has started each of the past four seasons for the Lizards, while Galloway has been the primary stopper for Rochester since 2011.

Their U.S. predecessor, however, cautions that MLL play, even with many Canadians on the eight pro rosters, won’t completely replicate the experience of playing a group of Team USA’s biggest rivals in Denver.

“Even when you play a lot of those guys when they’re on the same roster like you had with the [Hamilton] Nationals, it’s not even close. That’s not Team Canada,” said Dougherty, referring to MLL’s most concentrated Canadian roster, now dispersed after the team relocated to Florida as the Launch for the 2014 season.

“If you get a chance to play [against Canada], it’s unlike anything you’ve ever done in your life. The way they play lacrosse when they’re all on the field together is just different,” he said. “You may have seen the shots they can take or the behind-the-backs or whatever, but not all of them on the field at the same time.”

Be that as it may, it’s clear that any one of the three would be a solid choice to stand between the pipes on July 10 and beyond as they enter the stretch run of the great goalie battle, neck-and-neck for the photo finish.

“With Adams, he’s a lefty, so that’s a bit of an advantage, and you really have to make a great shot to beat him,” Schwartzman said.

“John is a real student of the game,” Adams said. “He’s a coach, so he understands the philosophy, and he’s such a good communicator.”

“With Jesse, the control that he has of the defense and his demeanor regardless of what’s going on, he has such confidence,” Galloway said. “Especially when you think of this team as a bunch of guys who don’t have a lot of chances to play together.”

As for Doc’s opinion?

“They’re all winners. They play good lacrosse and know how to get themselves ready,” Dougherty said. “All of them will know how to lead the team out there, that’s what these guys are good at.”

They’ll be ready for whatever the world has to throw at them.

A version of this story appears in the June 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Start your subscription by joining US Lacrosse today!

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