Mount Hebron's top-ranked girls' lacrosse team has 11 players who will continue their career at a Division I university next year, yet it was one of its most inexperienced players -- junior goalkeeper Karen Nicolaus -- who seized the spotlight in victories over two ranked opponents yesterday.
Nicolaus, who entered the Mount Hebron Spring Lacrosse Tournament having played 75 minutes all season, excelled in a 12-6 victory over No. 2 St. Stephen's/St. Agnes before holding No. 9 St. Mary's-Annapolis scoreless in the second half in a 10-6 victory a few hours later in Ellicott City.
Junior goalie Karen Nicolaus tends to business during Mount Hebron's win over St. Stephen's/St. Agnes. Nicolaus had 17 saves in two wins yesterday.
(Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)
Nicolaus finished the day with 17 saves -- including four on eight-meter free position shots -- as the Vikings (9-0) extended their winning streak to 69 games by claiming their tournament's title for the ninth consecutive year.
"Coming into the season, a lot of people said that our weakness was our goalie," Coach Brooke Kuhl-McClelland said. "And we know what we have is not the best in the state, but I think by the way Karen played she proved a lot of people wrong. She's the epitome of a hard-working goalie."
Entering the season, Nicolaus was better known as the younger sister of All-Met Mount Hebron goalie Cindy Nicolaus and attacker Chrissy Nicolaus, both of whom play for Loyola College in Baltimore.
"It's pressure following in my sisters' footsteps, but this was my coming out party," said Karen Nicolaus, who started for the junior varsity last year. "I saw this as a chance to get better and show what I could do."
Nicolaus was first given that opportunity on April 16, when Kuhl-McClelland inserted her in the second half against Roland Park after her team's starting goalie allowed six goals on seven first-half shots. Nicolaus responded by allowing just three the rest of the way in a 14-9 win.
Nicolaus earned her first shutout with a 29-0 victory over Hammond this past Tuesday, but was even more impressive against St. Stephen's/St. Agnes (15-1) and St. Mary's-Annapolis (10-5).
"Everyone in the neighborhood knows about how good Karen's sisters are," said junior midfielder Megan Bosica, who had a total of seven goals and two assists in the two wins. "This was Karen's time to show us what she could do, and she played great."
St. Stephen's/St. Agnes, the last team to defeat Mount Hebron (in May 2001), led 2-1 early. But the Vikings responded with an 8-0 run.
St. Mary's-Annapolis led 6-5 at halftime, becoming the second team to lead Mount Hebron at the half during the Vikings' winning streak. But Nicolaus stopped all five shots in the second half and was mobbed by her teammates as the final horn sounded.
"That was the greatest feeling in my life," Nicolaus said. "I grew up watching my sisters play here, and I would work the scoreboard during all of the games with my dad. I always hoped that one day I would have the chance to play for Mount Hebron."