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Inside the mind of Hofstra lacrosse goalie Andrew Gvozden

By Max Sass, Sports Editor

Andrew Gvozden has always been a glutton for punishment. He just does not refer to it that way. He calls it being a lacrosse goalie.

"I guess it's kind of weird that I love getting shots taken at me, but it's a challenge," Gvozden, a junior, said.

What exactly goes through the head of a goalie though? What can he be thinking when an offensive player winds up to fire a 90 miles per hour shot directly at him?

"Not thinking much," Hofstra head coach Seth Tierney said. "I'll tell you that right now, because it takes a different breed to jump in the goal; there is no getting around it."

The mental aspect of being between the pipes is just different from that of everyone else who straps on a lacrosse helmet.

Gvozden though has always had the fearless mindset of a goalie who likes to take charge of a game.  He grew up playing baseball - -  a catcher of course - -, and was also an ice hockey goalie. He switched to lacrosse in the spring only after his mother could no longer bear to watch him play baseball.

Lacrosse stuck and Gvozden gravitated towards the goal. His older brother, Michael, was a standout goalie at Johns Hopkins University, so the position ran in the family.

"There are some guys who just grow up to be goalies and you know it right away," Tierney said. "A guy that has good hands, that just finds the passion of being the last line of defense."

Gvozden confronted  one of the many challenges of the position he chose last season, during his sophomore year. Gvozden had been the starter for the final three-quarters of his freshman season, but the next year, a newcomer, Rob Bellairs, challenged him for his starting job and took a lot of playing time.

This season, Gvozden won the job outright in the preseason and it has improved his play.  Gvozden had a .522 save percentage last season and allowed 9.30 goals per game. Through 10 games this season, Gvozden has a .603 save percantage and is letting up  just 5.85 goals per game.

"It really did put me at ease," Gvozden said. "It makes a big difference, because when your coach is behind you, then you get some confidence for yourself."

Confidence in your position can make a big difference in game performance according to Dr. Steven Frierman, an Educational Sports Psychologist and Associate Professor of Health Professions and Kinesiology at Hofstra University.

"Number one and most important is confidence. They believe in themselves, they get on the field and they can practice what they preach," Frierman said.

Besides earning the starting job, Gvozden has had to get a handle on his Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), a condition he said he has dealt with since first grade. While common sense would dictate that ADD and a goalie mix about as well as oil and water, Gvozden has taken the optimistic view and uses the ADD to his advantage rather than allowing his condition to distract him from the task at hand.

"People always think of it as a bad thing," Gvozden said, "but really I think my ADD has given me a better field sense, I can really grasp a whole bunch of things. ADD also has its downside, like focus and stuff, but that's something I've been working on."

Focus is key for a goalie, who has to constantly be aware of the positioning of his own defenders, while simultaneously monitoring the offensive players buzzing around the goal and trying to score . Losing one's focus can be dangerous and potentially cost a team a victory.

"I think in Andrew's case, it is important that he recognizes that when he's lost his focus, to know what to do to get it back," Frierman said.

"One of the things I've been really focusing on this year is gripping in and really locking in and trying to tune everything out and focus on doing my job," Gvozden said.

Even after winning the starting job and figuring out a way to cope with his ADD, Gvozden still has to deal with the fact that college athletes are trying to shoot a ball past him with alarming speed.

"I don't think the goalie ended up picking the sport because he wanted to have things thrown at him 90 miles per hour," Frierman said. "This is the level that he has matured to as a result of his outstanding ability."

No matter the level, getting hit by the speeding ball hurts, a lot. Tierney said that goalies have come off the practice field with their skin looking like a tie-dye t-shirt. Gvozden is not afraid of that.

"During games, taking shots, I'm not afraid of anything," he said.

Just because he is courageous, does not mean that he has avoided injuries.

"I've gotten hit in the beans a couple times, really badly," Gvozden said with a sly smile.

Gvozden's fearless mindset makes sense to Frierman.

"The athletes at that kind of level [Division I] differ psychologically or personality wise from other athletes because they have this meantal toughness, they thrive in the face of failure," Frierman said.

Gvozden has flourished as the backstop for the 9-1 Pride, partially because he has gained the full trust of his coaches and the starting job, partially because he has found a way to cope with his ADD and also because he has remained fearless in the face of a rubber ball rocketing at his body.

"They're the tuba players," Tierney said of goalies. "They chose their instruments and they know what risk and what glory it entails."

Gvozden has embraced his instrument and plans to keep on tooting loud and long.

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