The Colgate Scene
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Beware of the goaltender. Opposing teams know
it's not easy getting one past the terrific Hilary Meyer.
|by John D. Hubbard|
Hilary Meyer's job is simple: Keep the ball out of the net.
Whether it's fall and field hockey or lacrosse in the spring, Meyer stands alone at the end of Tyler's Field, equipment nearly doubling her size, doing whatever it takes to ensure the ball stays on the field. Suddenly, the simplicity falls away, replaced by quick muscle reactions, laboriously honed skills and otherworldly appearances at just the spot it seemed certain the ball would pass through.
"I have a friend who tells me, `you can't lose if you don't let the ball in,'" says Meyer, a senior, who has starred in goal since her freshman year. In high school.
Wayland, Massachusetts has a long tradition of sporting excellence, and Colgate has been a major beneficiary. Judy Zimmerman Doherty '85, Theresa Zimmerman Lillie '89, Shari Krasnoo '91 and Kara Keenan '95 all starred for both schools. In fact Krasnoo, who was inducted into the Colgate Hall of Honor in September, was the first Wayland athlete to start for four years. Hilary Meyer is the second.
"The varsity lacrosse coach had seen me in P.E. classes and was looking for a goalie," says Meyer, remembering her first year in high school. The coach had been impressed with the young girl's reflexes and leadership qualities and invited her to practice with the varsity.
"I decided then to be a goalie," says Hilary, with a smile that becomes her. As a sophomore she began playing field hockey, too, and has kept up the double time ever since.
Though the title is the same and the job description -- keep the ball out -- doesn't change, the work is much different for a goalie in field hockey and lacrosse. For starters, the goal sizes are much different -- 6 feet by 12 in field hockey, a tighter 6 by 6 for lacrosse.
The goalie in field hockey also has no crease to serve as a buffer as she does in lacrosse, which means attackers can be right on top of the cage. With a larger area to defend, goalies in field hockey need to be aerobically fit, able to do a split to stop a ground shot, then leap up to knock away a high ball.
Field hockey goalies tend to rely on their legs, widely padded, and kick saves are the most common defense. The stick is not particularly useful, and they wear a padded mitt -- nothing like the catching glove employed by their cousins on ice.
Come spring, Meyer can be found stopping shots with her outsized lacrosse goalie stick. She is also called upon to help move the ball out of the defensive zone and functions as a field player on "clears."
"Hilary is a goalie in two sports that are completely different," says Cathy Foto, who has coached both for ten years. "She is also the first person I've had to play the two sports all the way through."
It has been a successful era. Two years ago Colgate won the Patriot League field hockey championship and last season was undefeated on Tyler's Field until the tournament. In lacrosse, the Red Raiders caught fire last season before being edged 10-9 by Lafayette in a game that determined the league champ.
Over the years Foto has watched Meyer come of age. "Hilary has really grown as a person and player. She has the personality, work ethic and Colgate spirit you wish everyone had.
"Hilary always had a lot of natural ability, but her discipline has grown and she brings so much more knowledge to the game, which helps her teammates dictate the flow of play."
"It's important to be as disciplined as you can be, but a goalie also needs to be uninhibited. You have to be willing to do anything to keep the ball from going over the line. You see it in any goalie. If they are any good, they will be able to make the completely unorthodox save," says Meyer, who has worked to acquire discipline in goal, but smiles as she recounts the "arms flailing" technique of her younger years.
Whatever the style, it's working. In field hockey Meyer is all-Patriot League, second team all-America and a member of the all-Academic squad selected by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (Hilary is a psychology major with plans for graduate school in either counseling or social work).
In lacrosse, Meyer is a U.S. Developmental Squad selection, Patriot League defensive player of the year, a two-time member of the all-Patriot League team and a Northeast Region all-America.
"I think I'm a better lacrosse goalie. That's pretty much always been the case, but I enjoy both, and the turf has made field hockey so much better. There are more shots on turf, and it's more challenging. Tyler's Field has done so much for our program."
Fall or spring, field hockey or lacrosse, big cage or bigger cage, it doesn't matter all that much, finally. Meyer approaches both her sports with a single-minded determination. And a sense of relief. Her mother died during Hilary's junior year in high school and it all seemed overwhelming at times. Except in goal. "Sports became an outlet. The only time I wasn't focused on outside pressures and stresses was when I was playing goal."
Hilary Meyer is focused now, too. She and her teammates have set their sights on the Patriot League. Championships would bookend the concluding season of a remarkable career just perfectly.
"Playing field hockey and lacrosse have been a release of energy, and there's a sense of camaraderie, that feeling of being a part of an elite group of varsity athletes on campus. The scariest part is not being able to play sports at this level again."
Hilary Meyer plays at the highest of levels.
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