Feb. 3, 2012
The University of Michigan men's lacrosse program's most recent hire, assistant coach Keith Euker, directs the Wolverines' most inexperienced position -- goalie. Junior Cy Abdelnour saw spot duty on the club team in 2011, while sophomore Dylan Westerhold and freshmen Emil Weiss and John Borger are newcomers. Multiple players are expected to see the field in the season's early going as the coaching staff assesses physical performance as well as the all-important communication element of working with the rest of the defense.
MGoBlue.com: How do the goalies work within the defensive system?
Keith Euker: When we work with our goalies, we focus a lot on doing things within our system and our defensive philosophies. As far as the goalie himself goes, we use a three-step arc which allows goalies to move across the crease much quicker. We think that it's the right style for the players that we have. I think that some of the things that we're working on with our goalies is to enhance their communication with the rest of the defense. The goalie is supposedly the leader on the field, the leader of the defense -- he's the quarterback, if you will. So much like on a football team, if your quarterback is not stepping up and rising to the challenge then the team will suffer. We're kind of the same philosophy where the goalie has to be able to take charge on the field, so there are a lot of things that he has to be cognizant of -- far more than just making saves -- as far as understanding the defense, understanding the clearing that we're trying to do, and any of the rides as well. It's a bit of a complex position.
MGB: How do you assess the talents of goalies, mentally vs. physically?
KE: It's kind of a delicate balance between mental or leadership ability and pure physical skill. From a physical standpoint you want to look for footwork. A goalie has to be nimble, has to be quick on his feet. But from a mental aspect he has to be able to stay calm under high-stress situations and be able to, as I mentioned earlier, direct the defense on where they need to be going, know where the next slide has to come from, and things like that. It's a very challenging position and you want to find a good blend between the two. Of pure physical ability, and work to enhance that physical ability (there are drills that you can do to make that better), but also you have to have a mental edge as well where you're going to get scored upon, that's part of the game, and you've got to forget about it right away and move on to the next play. You want a goalie who is going to have a strong mindset and will be able to do that as well.
MGB: Which goalies have progressed well since you arrived in the fall?
KE: The two goaltenders that have made the most progress have been Emil Weiss and Dylan Westerhold, and they've done that through a lot of off-field work that they've done. They've been doing a lot of private individual sessions with me as well as watching a lot of film. And in doing so it's helped them to not only make more saves but be more aware of various situations on the field, which helps them have that mental edge that I talked about. So I talk with our guys all the time about you've got to be able to put the work in off the field and that's going to allow you to progress. So we've seen, just in the short time that I've been here, I think that there's a lot of progression. We still have a long ways to go, there's no doubt about that, but the fact that we've come from where we have in the short amount of time shows progress and shows a propensity to continue in that direction.
MGB: Who will be the starting goalie?
KE: Right now we're trying to figure that out. It looks like it's a race between both Dylan and Emil. Dylan was a walk-on. He came and tried out for the team, which I think is a great story and a real testament to his work ethic. But right now we're not sure. We're going to try both of them and see not only who does a better job in cage but also who our defense responds better to because that's a big thing that you need to be aware of is who is the defense going to rally behind more and who are they going to follow more and look for that leadership from and who will they be more comfortable with that leadership. So it's going to take us some time to figure that out.