April 6, 2014
Goalkeeper Liz Colgan had made 130 saves already for the Cavaliers this year. Only two other players in NCAA Division I lacrosse have stopped more shots this season and no ACC goalie has stopped more shots per game than Colgan. As sure-handed and natural as she now looks in goal, the senior from Cockeysville, Md. did not start out that way.
"When I started playing lacrosse in first grade, I was a defender," Colgan recalled. "No one ever wanted to play goalie on my team. My dad, who was our rec coach, always said everyone had to take a turn, but most kids refused and I ended up taking more than my fair share of turns. Eventually, I started to figure some things out. At first, I was strictly using my body, making all kick-saves. I didn't move my stick very well. I started going to a ton of camps and really focusing on my technique and I think that's when I began to really enjoy it.
"I also realized being a goalie, you need to be pretty active. I think that the stereotype is that you're a big kid and slow, but I think once you get to a higher level, you have to be able to move. When I was in high school, I would run with our cross country team in the fall to get in shape and prep for the spring."
Her father, Tom Colgan, also inspired Colgan to play lacrosse.
"My dad is a really active guy who just loves the sport and actually still plays in the grand master's league," Colgan said. "He has always had a passion for lacrosse and he spread that to me. He has played a little bit of everything except for attack. I think we are both really defensive minded. That is definitely where I get it from."
Over the years, her game evolved and her love of playing goal deepened.
"I like the feeling I get when I have a big stop, or an interception, or a ground ball," Colgan said. "I like being the underdog, too, I guess."
Once arriving at Virginia, Colgan ended up lower on the depth chart than she would have liked. She saw action in a combined six games her first two seasons, but was suddenly thrust into a starting role last year after Kim Kolarik was sidelined for several weeks with an injury.
Colgan made the most of the opportunity, getting a 10-3 road win at James Madison in her first game, logging seven saves while shutting out the Dukes in the first half.
"When I first found out I was going to be starting last year, it was a combination of nerves and shock," Colgan said. "I felt like I worked hard and I knew I had to step up big for the team. I feel like I put in the work to do so. So it was nice to have some success, but I definitely wanted to feel like I earned the spot this year."
Colgan has earned the spot, playing all but seven minutes in goal this season. In addition to her conference-leading saves, Colgan is also among the ACC elite in ground balls, ranking fifth with 2.20 per game, and is thoroughly enjoying the experience.
"It is really exciting when you get your turn and you feel like you've earned it," Colgan said. "I have become a more active leader on the team as I have been on both sides of things. I think that helped me encourage players who don't see as much time as they want and work hard. I've been able to bring the team together in that sense."
Colgan's biggest game was her 22-save performance against No. 1 North Carolina. At the time, it was the most saves by a goalkeeper in a single game this season and tied for fourth-most by a Cavalier goalie in program history.
"Our North Carolina game for me personally was a big moment, even though it was a loss for the team," Colgan said. "I was seeing the ball really well that day and I left that game confident that I did what I thought I could do to help the team win. I am the kind of kid who will mentally go through games afterwards thinking `I could've had that one,' even though its totally unrealistic. That's just my personality. I think not really seeing the time I wanted during my first three years has led me to be a super-passionate person, an intense kid with anger, tears and the combination of everything. At the end of the day when the team wins, I am the happiest person, just because I care."
The economics major will be returning to Baltimore after she graduates with a job already waiting for her working with a wealth management firm where she had previously worked as an intern. Being close to family is something that is very important to her and they also top her list of people she wanted to thank.
"I would like to thank my mom, my dad, my sister, Jennifer, and my brother, Michael, for always being there and supporting me," Colgan said. "My parents have only missed two games throughout my entire four years here. I've had some ups and downs academically and athletically at my time here, but my family has always been a constant source of support and love and care."
She is also appreciative of head coach Julie Myers and volunteer goalkeeping coach Kendall McBrearty working with her to help build her skills.
"I want to thank the coaches for giving me the opportunity to play and attending a school like the University of Virginia," Colgan said. "I grew up watching the team at all their Baltimore-based games at Loyola and Hopkins. I was always a big Virginia fan! I think my first pair of lacrosse shorts ever were Virginia Lacrosse shorts, which is pretty cool. To be able to play for a team you grew up watching and wanting to be a part of for so long is a dream-come-true."