Ambivalent in Annapolis
Tommy Phelan has no idea whether he will start in the net when No. 3 Navy plays host to No. 7 Georgetown on Saturday at 5 p.m. But that’s not stopping the junior goalkeeper from preparing as if he will.
"I’m definitely going into it planning to start and doing what I have to do to get ready," he said. "I have to play as if I’m the No. 1 goalie."
Phelan’s uncertainty about his status is based on whether junior Matt Coughlin’s injured right hamstring will have healed enough. Coughlin, who tweaked the hamstring in the Midshipmen’s 4-3 overtime win against Bucknell eight days ago, was held out by coach Richie Meade in favor of Phelan, who recorded 13 saves in his first career start against Colgate on Sunday.
Meade said Coughlin’s status is "a day-by-day" process and that he would likely wait until gameday before announcing the starting goalkeeper.
"It’s not a big deal to us," Meade said. "The way our organization is set up, anyone can play at any position at any time. … It’s a good problem to have. Both are playing well, and we could win with either one."
While not as physically imposing or gifted as the 6-foot-2, 209-pound Coughlin, the 5-9, 182-pound Phelan was lauded by Meade for his calm, confident presence in the cage against the Raiders. The Loyola graduate’s outlet passes were crisp, and he had no trouble directing the defense, according to Meade.
"It was definitely everything I thought it would be," Phelan said of his first career start. "Competing with Matt every day in practice, I got that feeling back that I had in my senior year in high school. I was just playing the game and watching the ball."
Whether Phelan or Coughlin starts in the net, Navy is going to need a strong outing from its goalkeeper against a Hoyas offense that ranks 11th in the country in scoring with an 11.5 goals-per-game average.
"We have such a strong team that we could play with any of our goalies," Phelan said. "Hopefully, Matt will heal well, but I definitely plan on being the starter."