Soccer Goalkeeping It was the biggest moment in DeMatha goalkeeper Andrew Quinn's high school career thus far.
On a cold night in Germantown last November, Quinn clinched the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship for the Stags by stopping two Gonzaga penalty kicks.
Facing penalty kicks, much less stopping them, is among the most nerve-racking situations young goalkeepers face, but it's something the senior excels at for two reasons: practice and experience.
"Some people like to guess on penalty kicks," Quinn said. "I don't. You sell yourself short if you guess. Pay attention. The kicker always leaves clues."
In the conference championship game, Quinn used those clues to make a pair of spectacular saves. On the first, Quinn went to his right, but used his left trailing hand to make the stop. He made the second save by reading the kicker's body language, then diving to his left to stab the ball with two hands.
To the untrained eye, it may have appeared that Quinn got lucky. Actually, it was anything but luck.
Quinn, 17, has played goalkeeper since age 5. He's been practicing stopping penalty kicks for nearly as long with his father, Tony, who briefly was a professional goalkeeper in England. Tony Quinn works as the team photographer for D.C. United and the U.S. national team, and often takes Andrew to practices and games.
"Playing goal is like any other position -- practice and experience are the keys," said Andrew Quinn, who also plays for the club team Bethesda International.
In addition to honing his technique in goal -- whether it's during a DeMatha practice or at the local YMCA with his father -- Quinn's physical attributes have also helped him develop into one of the area's top keepers. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Quinn cuts an imposing figure, which intimidates opposing players and helps him reach shots smaller players can't.
"The presence and confidence Andrew shows in goal prior to the kick is part of making the save," DeMatha Coach Dafydd Evans said. "Andrew is big, so he wins the psychological battle, too. He thrives on the pressure as a goalkeeper, which is important during penalty kicks."
Quinn -- who has narrowed his college choices to Notre Dame, Rutgers and George Mason -- has not faced any penalty kicks through six games for the top-ranked Stags (4-0-2). And judging by the way DeMatha is playing at the moment, he may not see any for a while. But whenever that moment comes, Quinn is confident that he'll be ready.
"Just remember, the pressure is on the shooter," Quinn said. "He is expected to score. So relax -- that will help you stay focused and controlled."