Bowie's Tony Mazzei handles the pressures of goalkeeping well. He likes the challenge, fully aware that the pats on the back could change to cold stares should his reflexes be a millisecond slow.
"There's 10 field players, but only one goalie," said Mazzei, a confident 6-foot junior. "Recognition isn't a big problem. When your opponenet scores a goal, everyone looks at the goalie. When things go well, people don't pay as much attention, but teammates know when a goalie plays well."
He's been kicked and suffered a few bumps and bruises, but the referees try to protect goalies. They're too vulnerable (and valuable) to be left to fend for themselves. Still the position is dangerous.
A goalie can't be afraid. Nearly every day he practices by trying to fend off hundreds of shots. Some whiz past while others leave a painful reminder when he lunges for them or stops them with his body.
"I was a little nervous as a freshman," said Mazzei, already a 10-year soccer veteran (five as a goalie). "But now I feel more comfortable out there.
"It's my job to call out the defense. I have the best view of the whole field in front of me. When I see a play developing, it's my job to tell the fullbacks who to mark. They know that it's my job to tell them what to do and we respect each other. The goalie has to be in charge out there on defense."
Mazzei got his start with the Bowie Soccer Association. Five years ago he made the transition to goalie. He used to also play basketball, but has focused on soccer and plays on the BSA's '68 Super Bees each spring.
Being a goalie is isolated for another reason. Most coaches don't know the position well. To get specialized coaching, Mazzei has attended a special soccer goalie camp in Philadelphia the past two summers.