Herndon’s Keegan Fairchild develops into stable goalkeeper

Herndon goalkeeper Keegan Fairchild made seven saves Wednesday night against Westfield, but none was more important than the stop he made with about seven minutes remaining in the game. With his team struggling to create scoring chances, a Westfield player lined up for a direct kick from about 20 yards out – and Fairchild immediately studied his movements. The kicker was right-footed and was likely to try to chip the ball high to the right, Fairchild thought.

He was correct. The ball was delivered on a line with a spin to the right, and Fairchild was able to bat it into the air, above the crossbar. It was Westfield’s best chance of the night, and Fairchild’s telegraph saved No. 6 Herndon in a game that eventually resulted in a 0-0 draw.

“I could tell he was going far-post,” Fairchild said of the play. “It was just kinda instincts, really.”

With a 6-foot-1 frame, and the ability to move with range, Fairchild is one of Hornets’ best athletes. He’s been playing strictly as a goalkeeper since he was 13, he said, and he’s been to a few professional camps to learn technique. But rarely does Fairchild rely on his athleticism alone. His knowledge of the position has grown this season, and that includes learning how to read players and offenses in their approach at the net. The goal is positioned right behind the red-painted end zone of Herndon’s football field, and Fairchild acts as a free safety of sorts for the Hornets. Herndon coach Trey Messiah calls him the “eyes” of his club.

“What he’s done a really good job of is, is just communicating the whole game, staying engaged,” Messiah said. “When we ask him to make one save, or make 10 saves, he’s always into the game. So I think, you know, his leadership and control back there has really helped us out a lot.”

With 77 saves this season, Fairchild has the second-highest total in the area (among schools who have reported their stats to the Post). He’s pitched three shutouts, and while he has been far from perfect, he has posted dominant performances – including a 15-save effort in a 3-1 win over Chantilly last week. Herndon (6-1-2) had won six straight games before Wednesday’s draw with Westfield.

Fairchild will play at Ferrum College next year, a Division III school that he verbally committed to recently. He expects to contend for a starting position in goal for the Panthers, who finished 7-9-3 this season and lost in the first round of the USA South Conference Tournament.

“That’s my main position. I’m trying to go far with that,” Fairchild said. “It just, really, comes natural to me.”

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Roman Stubbs covers the University of Maryland athletics for The Washington Post.
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Preston Williams · April 18, 2013