The Alabama Experience: Battle of the Backups

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Editor’s Note: Please welcome senior goalie and captain, Jake Springer of the Alabama Lacrosse team to MCLA Fan. He will be shedding some light on all things Tide Lacrosse throughout the season. Find out more on Alabama’s lacrosse program here and see of all Jake’s contributions here.

There are a lot of philosophies out there for how to approach an opponent. A lot of times, I try to hate the team I’m playing against. Dehumanize them. Make them “the enemy.” It’s a war mentality that keeps me focused. But it doesn’t work in every situation. Sometimes, the cliché holds true: keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

But what happens when your enemy is your friend?

Nick Loverde and I have a history. No, get your mind out of the gutter. Not that kind; a lacrosse history. As teammates, as friends, as opponents and as rivals.

Nick is a senior goalie for Ole Miss. I am a senior goalie for Alabama. Both of us went to St. Paul’s School in Baltimore, MD. Both of us were goalies at said high school and, at a place known for its lacrosse pedigree, had to work our tails off to see the field.

The Alabama Experience

There were three goalies in our grade: Nick, myself, and Harry Krieger. My sophomore year, Krieger made Varsity, Nick was the JV starter and I made the JV team as a backup for the sole reason that, “we need insurance in case Nick gets hurt.” Many thanks to my JV coach Mr. Peter Hawley for that big vote of confidence. By the end of the season, Loverde and I were splitting time evenly.

Our junior year, all three of us made Varsity. Being the freak of an athlete he was, Krieger was the starter from day one. But halfway through the season, Harry broke his collarbone diving for a shot out of bounds. Nick and I rarely saw the field, so this was a major opportunity to battle for the top spot. Well, Nick seized it.

Loverde filled Harry’s role quite capably and got the opportunity to prove himself. Late in that season, there was a point where Nick struggled. I distinctively remember our high school coach Rick Brocato yelling in practice, “Get it together Nick… or I’m putting the tall kid in!” He did get it together, eventually leading us past archrival Boys’ Latin 9-7 that season.

That ‘tall kid’ never got the chance to prove himself at the high school level.

Cue club ball.

Krieger went on to start at Harvard as a freshman. Nick chose not to go the NCAA route and enrolled at Ole Miss. I enrolled at Alabama. The two of our schools are divisional opponents in the SELC and play each other every season, vying for the same playoff spot.

And just like in high school, competing against him has been a grind. All 3 times I’ve played Nick in college, our game has been decided by 1 goal (didn’t play him my sophomore year because of a torn ACL).

This past Sunday was our finest game yet and a fitting end to the series I’ve coined, “The Battle of the Backups.” I knew going into Sunday’s game that Nick and his defense were playing well. Already this season, Loverde has a shutout to his credit and hasn’t given up more than 8 goals once. That didn’t bother me. It just meant our game would turn into what I’d wanted all along: a battle of the goalies.

Before the game, I explained to my teammates that this one was personal. I told them that Nick, for better or for worse, represented the opportunities I never got in high school. Loverde would respond with the best game I’ve ever seen him play. That 5’7” Italian Stallion saved nearly everything we threw at him. Trust me, as a goalie, there’s nothing more frustrating than watching the other keeper make save after save against your offense.

Me and Loverde

Despite never trailing in the game, we couldn’t put Ole Miss away. Two late goals from midfielder Davis Diamond weren’t enough, as I would concede the game-tying goal on a fast-break with 3 minutes left.

Tied 7-7, the game went to overtime. Much like our game versus Tennessee two days prior, Ole Miss controlled possession the entire first OT. They got off about 6 shots, but couldn’t get them on cage. Our defense did a tremendous job getting on their shooters’ hands and being disruptive, despite our collective fatigue. So we trudged on to double overtime. Unfortunately, we were called for a costly slashing penalty on the opening faceoff. I would give up the game-winning goal about 15 seconds later on a one-on-one from the right wing.

Nick and I combined for 40 saves on the day. Even though we lost, I was still happy for both of us and especially proud of him. He played phenomenally and we both were able to make some tremendous saves for our teams.

It is my honest opinion that Nick deserves a spot on the SELC All-Conference team this season. He’s too good of a goalie to be snubbed for the fourth consecutive year. I just hope I can be there next to him, battling him out for that top spot.

About Alabama Lacrosse
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