April 15, 2011
Junior Connor Welch knows he is talented. Otherwise, there might be no other explanation for statistics that show he could be the best goalie in Montgomery County. Yet, the junior is modest.
“I stay humble knowing that there are much better goalies than me out there,” he says.
Then there’s senior KC Emerson, a five-star Johns Hopkins recruit who has dominated on varsity since her freshman year.
“I always have a goal,” she says. “I work to be better than the year before and set [statistical] numbers that I want to reach.There is always, always, always something to improve on, so my motivation is to keep getting better.”
With both teams looking to claim the county and ultimately regional crown, each goaltender will certainly have to work hard.
“I think my mentality is different than a lot of girls’,” said Emerson, a four-year varsity starter who will play college lacrosse at Johns Hopkins. “I expect myself to be nothing less than the best so I don’t stop until I get to the level that I want to be.”
Emerson and Welch’s dominance has been paved with hard work and dedication. The two have played lacrosse for a combined 25 years, though surprisingly, neither have tended goal for the majority of those years. Emerson’s career in net began with a teammate’s desire to get out of the sun.
“I started playing goalie in the Lax Max Tournament in third grade,” she recollected. “Our goalie was tired and hot and didn’t feel like playing anymore so I volunteered. I did pretty well and didn’t mind too much and played on and off until sixth grade. When I tried out for my club team as a goalie, I made the switch official.”
Since switching over, Emerson has become a two-time first team All-Gazette goaltender with a save percentage above 68 percent. After six years of hard work between the pipes, she is flaunted as one of the Blue Jays’ top recruits and will challenge current Hopkins sophomore goalie Cossette Larash for the starting job next year.
Welch took a similar route to the net. As his older brother Pat had done just years earlier, Connor volunteered to put on the extra pads and play goaltender when his club team needed one. Since the younger Welch took over, the Maryland Zingos, a division of the legendary M&D Lax Club, have won numerous tournaments including the Maryland Rockfish Cup. All the while Welch led Sherwood to a 19-8 record over two years.
“I tend to hit the wall a lot on weekends when there is no practice,” he said. “I try to keep the lacrosse stick in my hands for as long as possible. Club is a great way to play some of the best talent in the country and that has improved my game quite a lot. It’s fun to play against great talent; it pulls your game to their level.”
Emerson and Welch no doubt anchor their respective school squads, which look to unseat perennial powerhouse Wootton as Montgomery County’s elite lacrosse program. To do that, each will have to be especially strong in net. The boys’ squad returns upwards of a dozen juniors and seniors that boast a .707 winning percentage over the past two years.
“I know there is always something I can work on that can make my game better to help the team win,” says Welch. “The region and state championships are always in our sights.”
Meanwhile, the girls’ team will attempt to post another successful season after their 2010 campaign was ended by Churchill in the 4A West Regional Final.