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Defense Rules - Twelve Difference Makers Between The Pipes

NCAA Tournament time is just around the corner. It takes a talented and composed goalkeeper for a team to have a successful season and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Errors that occur in the run of play are often overlooked but that is not the case in the goal. It takes a special player and leader to handle the pressure that rests on the shoulders of a goalkeeper since a single mistake between the pipes can decide the outcome of a contest. The following goalkeepers are among those who have the ability to be a difference maker in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.    

Alex Bono - Junior - Syracuse - Bono is a three year starter and has been an impact player in goal for the Orange since arriving on campus in 2012.  He anchors a Syracuse defense that has recorded twelve shutouts so far this year to set a new school record for the most clean sheets in a single season.  He is a key element in a tenacious Orange defense  that has allowed a total of only seven goals against a very competitive slate of opponents. The fact that Bono is currently second in the country with a 0.38 goals-against-average speaks volumes for his effectiveness between the pipes. 

Spencer Richey - Redshirt Senior - Washington - Richey is a prime timer.  He was the man between the pipes for the Huskies in 2010, 2011 and 2012 but had to sit out almost all of the 2013 season after breaking his leg in the fourth match of the season.  He did the excruciating hard work he needed to do to be able to return to the pitch and is having a stellar season in goal in 2014 for a Washington team that has the potential to win it all. 

Tomas Gomez - Senior - Georgetown - Gomez has been a big part of the success that Georgetown has enjoyed over the past few seasons.  He is talented and has the benefit of having played on the biggest stage in college soccer when the Hoyas advanced to the national championship in 2012. The 2013 Big East Co-Goalkeeper of the Year is in his fourth season as the starting goalkeeper for the Hoyas and is at the heart of a Georgetown defense that has recorded ten shutouts to date in 2014 while holding opponents to a total of only eleven goals.  

Zack Steffan - Sophomore - Maryland - The sophomore netminder from Dowington, Pennsylvania has played every minute in goal for the Terps for the past two seasons.  He arrived in College Park last year as a highly heralded recruit and has more than lived up to expectations.  Steffan recorded eight shutouts in 2013 and has seven to date in 2014.  He is a key part of a Maryland team that struggled early in the year but has rebounded in a big way.  

Callum Irving - Junior - Kentucky - Irving, who hails from Vancover, British Columbia, has been a difference maker for the Wildcats.  Last year he did an excellent job of stabilizing a very young Kentucky backline.  This year he is one of the main reasons why the Wildcats have had a banner season.  Irving has consistently made big saves recording ten shutouts so far this year with a 0.63 goals against average.  He was named the 2014 CUSA Player of the Year.   

Patrick Wall - Graduate Student - Notre Dame - Wall is a fearless winner who sets the pace for the Irish.  In 2013 he played every minute in goal for a Notre Dame team that won the national championship recording ten shutouts and a 0.71 goals-against-average.  He is having a stellar 2014 season marked by a significant number of outstanding saves that have contributed significantly to the success the Irish have enjoyed to date.  Bobby Clark pretty much summed up the value that Wall brings to the pitch when he stated, "Pat's been fantastic for us.  He's like a coach in the back. He's a real leader." 

Zach Bennett - Junior - Michigan State - Spartan head coach Damon Rensing refers to the need for a Michigan State mindset of "shutout soccer."  Bennett is the guy who must set the pace in that regard for the Spartans.  It would be a mistake to overlook what Bennett brings to the table at Michigan State and the impact he has on the Spartan's performance.  The 2014 season is Bennett's third as the starting Michigan State netminder.  In 2013 he posted thirteen shutouts and recorded a 0.70 goals-against-average for a team that was 14-6-3 overall and advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since the 1968 campaign.  In 2014 Bennett has recorded ten shutouts to date with a 0.71 goals-against-average. Michigan State has a lot of offensive weapons but how far this team advances will ultimately likely be determined by their play on the defensive side of the ball. 

Charlie Lyon - Redshirt Senior - Marquette - The 2013 Co-Big East Conference Goalkeeper of the Year is  among the best at his trade in the country.  He has been an impact player during his tenure at Marquette.  A good case could be made that the Golden Eagles are the best eight win team in the country in 2014. The Golden Eagles allowed a total of only fourteen goals while recording an 8-6-4 overall record this year. At one time this year Marquette posted eight consecutive shutouts.  Lyon's has a 0.74 goals-against-average so far this year and has recorded nine shutouts.  He is a force between the pipes and is Marquette's all-time career leader in goals-against-average. The Golden Eagles now must wait to see whether or not they will be awarded an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.  

Earl Edwards Jr. - Redshirt Senior - UCLA - It's great to be the netminder at UCLA with all that talent in front of you but along with that goes the pressure that accompanies being in goal for a team with such high expectations.  Edwards, who was the NSCAA National Player of the Year in 2008 coming out of high school, handles it well and is a team leader.  He has recorded seven shutouts so far this year and has a 0.79 goals-against-average. A good case could be made that he is the best pure athlete in goal in the country.  It may be unfair but how far the Bruins advance in the NCAA Tournament will be determined in large part by the level of play of fellow senior Leo Stolz on the offensive side of the ball and Edwards on the defensive side of the ball.  

Tyler Miller - Senior - Northwestern - Miller is a four year starter in goal for the Wildcats with a ton of big saves to his credit during a very impressive tenure at Northwestern.  He has a 0.56 goals-against-average and has recorded nine shutouts so far this year for a Northwestern team that has allowed a total of only eleven goals to date.  Count Miller, who holds the Northwestern record for career shutouts, as among the best if not the best to ever patrol the area between the pipes for Northwestern.  

Andrew Wolverton - Senior - Penn State - Wolverton has been a starter in goal at Penn State since arriving in University Park as a freshman in 2011.  He played every minute in goal for the Nittany Lions in 2013 and was named the 2013 Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year.  This year he has recorded nine shutouts to date and has a 0.83 goals-against-average.  Wolverton anchored a Penn State defense that allowed a total of only three goals in their first eleven games in 2014 before allowing a total of twelve goals in their last seven contests.  Wolverton, who has been praised for his work ethic as well as his technical skills between the pipes, holds the Penn State record for career shutouts.   

Eric Klenofsky - Sophomore - Monmouth -  Whether or not the number four seeded Hawks can run the table in the MAAC Tourney and earn a spot in the NCAA Tourney this year remains to be seen. Clearly they have an uphill battle to punch their ticket but it would be an oversight to leave Klenofsky off any list of impact netminders.  He led the nation in goals-against-average last year with at 0.22 mark and is currently at the top of the record book in that statistical category in 2014 with a 0.36 gaa.  Klenofsky has recorded twelve shutouts to date this year for a Monmouth team that has allowed a total of only two goals so far  in MAAC play.