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How They Do It

Hoppman Adds Extra Zip to His Delivery

By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 1, 2005; Page D08

This Week:

Alex Hoppman, Annapolis, Sr.

Boys' Lacrosse

"His ball is like a bullet, and it can do some serious damage," Coach Joe Keenan says of Alex Hoppman, above, who has 16 goals for 3-0 Annapolis. (Dudley M. Brooks -- The Washington Post)

_____Alex Hoppman's Keys to Powerful Lacrosse Shooting_____

• Keep your feet on the ground. The popular, mid-air shot might be flashy, but a strong stance generates more power.

• Rotate the hips: Almost as if it were a golf swing, Hoppman starts his shot with his front shoulder facing the goal and follows through until his hips point at it.

• Shoot overhand: Hoppman brings his right arm high over his shoulder and follows through toward the ground. "It's like pitching in baseball," he said.

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One of these days, somebody probably is going to get hurt, Annapolis High School lacrosse coach Joe Keenan said. So maybe goalkeepers at Annapolis should have to sign some sort of consent form:

I am willing to stand in the way of Alex Hoppman's 98-mph shot.

"When I say that his shot is dangerous, I'm only half joking," Keenan said. "I mean, I have to make sure everybody on my team is wearing a helmet. His ball is like a bullet, and it can do some serious damage."

Seemingly everyone associated with Annapolis lacrosse has his favorite Hoppman horror story. There was the scrimmage last year when the senior attackman fired a shot that cracked the goalie's helmet, or the game early this season when his close-range shot hit a goalie's stick and both the stick and the ball went flying into the goal.

Hoppman, who has scored 16 goals to lead Annapolis to a 3-0 start, stands only 5 feet 9 inches tall, but he's found a lacrosse-shooting technique that defies his size. He shuns the game's most-popular release -- a flashy, sidearm shot delivered in mid-air -- in favor of a flat-footed, overhand style.

"I've got teammates who think the way I shoot is boring," Hoppman said, "but it definitely works."

The key to generating velocity, Hoppman said, is in the hips and the legs -- not the arms. He prefers to shoot right-handed, beginning his motion with his left shoulder pointed toward the goal. He shoots by bringing his right arm over the top of his shoulder and rotating his hips to the goal almost as if he were swinging a golf club.

"I always keep my feet planted," Hoppman said. "Jumping might look good, but it makes me lose my power. I've got to lean into the shot with my knees. I aim high in the goal, too. If you bounce the ball low, you're going to loose a lot of speed."

The follow-through is equally important, so Hoppman's motion stops only when the head of his stick scrapes against the ground. His eyes, meanwhile, stay fixed on the ball, intently watching the destruction it will cause.

"His shot is too good to stop," Keenan said. "He warms up our goalie and sometimes it's like, 'Okay Alex, take it easy. Let's not destroy his confidence before the game even starts.' "

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