When Dallas’ long-established successful soccer program needed a back-up goalie for the 2016 season, Corey McAndrew had a new sport for his senior year.
McAndrew was the logical choice. Already a goalie in two other sports, he spent most of the fall on standby and got in a little playing time, including once out of necessity and another time as a Senior Night reward for his commitment to his classmates.
A few years earlier, when it was the relatively new sport of lacrosse that had a need, with the impending graduation loss of George Pfeiffer, one of the Wyoming Valley Conference’s first standouts in goal, McAndrew had been called on similarly.
It all made perfect sense. McAndrew had already devoted years to playing goalie in ice hockey, something the older lacrosse players knew thanks Corey’s older brother Casey.
Carrying it to another sport just seemed natural. That is, to everyone except McAndrew.
To the freshman facing shots from older players in practice, it soon became evident that there were many differences to stopping a hard rubber ball flung through the air in an open field from shoulder-high positions and stopping a frozen puck in shots that originated from ice level.
The growing pains of learning a position while still grasping the sport was just that — painful. With little padding to assist in the process, the awkward and inventive saves in particular tended to leave a mark.
They still do, but McAndrew long ago conquered any fear while becoming arguably the single biggest game-changing factor in WVC boys lacrosse. The senior goalie has been named Times Leader Player of the Year.
“If you get hit in the right spot, your whole muscle tenses up,” said McAndrew, pointing out that while he felt some shots in hockey, almost all struck padding first, some hitting areas of the body protected by multiple layers of overlapping pads. “It’s a completely different animal.
“I have hematomas every day after practice. My shins are all lumps. It’s just gross.”
McAndrew went out this spring and made 207 saves for a save percentage of .719 that ranked second in the state and in the top 10 nationally among players from programs that report their statistics to maxpreps.com. A second-team Times Leader all-star as a sophomore and first-team choice as a junior, he finished his career with 704 saves and a .720 save percentage.
The numbers themselves represent the many differences from goalie the way McAndrew played it in hockey for many years and the way he has played it in lacrosse for a few years.
“It’s a completely different mindset,” said McAndrew, who was selected WVC Defensive Player of the Year by conference coaches. “In hockey, you go from getting scored on maybe two or three times a game to, in lacrosse, letting in 10 or 12 goals, but maybe still having a great game.
“That was the toughest part, the mental aspect of it, without a doubt.”
McAndrew led Dallas to a 10-3 record and a tie for first place in Division 1 of the Wyoming Valley Conference this season. The Mountaineers won both regular-season meetings with Delaware Valley, which eventually kept intact its record of winning the WVC’s overall or Division 1 title every season by winning the playoff rematch.
McAndrew’s motto through three years, “a save is a save,” has been heard by his lacrosse teammates so many times that it even pops up in his yearbook.
“In the game, I wouldn’t really care if I was stopping the ball with my body or the stick,” he said. “You just want to get in front of the ball.”
When he arrives at Frostburg State to continue the sport in one of its hotbeds, McAndrew will at times be relying on an approach a bit different from those who played lacrosse first.
“Unconventional saves in the most unconventional times,” McAndrew said in describing his own style. “I would just do whatever I could to stop the ball. You train to get your stick in front of it, but sometimes you just can’t get there, so you have to do whatever you can.”
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