Two field hockey goalkeepers split time in net

After starting all 19 games last season, sophomore goalkeeper Maddie Lilliock has to battle junior Chloe Johnson for each start this season.

Freshman goalkeeper Maddie Lilliock and freshman midfielder Taylor Alba keep their eyes on the ball during a corner opportunity against Sacred Heart on Sept. 24 at Howarth Field. | JAY NEEYMEYER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Coach Marybeth Freeman has a philosophy about setting her lineup each week. She does not set the lineup until the day of the game.

Every starting spot is available to be earned each week, and Chloe Johnson has taken advantage of the opportunity to earn.

Johnson, a junior goalkeeper, did not start a game until this season. She has started two of the last four games for the Owls (3-7, 0-3 Big East Conference). Freeman said Johnson has grown as a tactical goalkeeper.

“I really got to watch the games twice last season, once while I was on the sideline and then again when we watched film,” Johnson said. “I was really able to learn where I should put the defenders based on how other teams were playing, so it definitely helped me take my game to the next level.”

Freeman said she looks for three major factors to determine who her starting goalkeeper will be — the goalie’s ability to make routine saves, communicate with teammates and connect with the defense during the week leading up to games.

In her four games, Johnson has earned two of Temple’s three wins. She has 26 saves and a .743 save percentage. She made eight saves in the Owls’ win against the College of the Holy Cross on Sept. 17.

In games when Johnson has started or played, it has been instead of sophomore goalkeeper Maddie Lilliock. As a freshman, Lilliock started all 19 games. Opposing offenses frequently tested her. Lilliock faced 330 shots last year, and she and Johnson combined to make 7.74 saves per game, which ranked 12th in Division I.

Lilliock has still started the majority of the games so far this season. In her eight starts, she has two wins, one of which was Temple’s only shutout thus far she made 11 saves against Kent State University on Sept. 9.

She approaches the competition between her and Johnson with a positive mentality, using it as motivation to continue to improve her game. Johnson, Lilliock and freshman goalkeeper Cristina Carotenuto have become close as a group, working together during practices and before games trying to earn starts.

“I’ve attacked each week and each practice like I always have,” Lilliock said. “I come ready to play every game and leave Marybeth to make the decision, but I think I earn every start. Me and Chloe are really great friends, so each practice is a friendly competition between us while we push each other to get better, which helps the team get better.”

Freeman, who played goalkeeper at Old Dominion University from 1998-2002, has adopted her philosophy from her playing career into her coaching style. Freeman didn’t play during her redshirt season in 1998, but she never asked the coach why and “just went out and worked” to earn a spot, she said. She started 97 games in the next four seasons.

“Because I had to earn my playing time, I try to instill the same idea to push my team,” Freeman said.

Freeman works closely with the goalkeepers, especially during pregame warmups. Freeman knows what it is like to prepare for games, so she exclusively works with the goalkeepers before each game.

The connection between Freeman and her goalkeeping unit is something Johnson finds very comforting. She likes having a coach who understands some of the struggles she might have in a game.

“It’s completely different having a head coach that has put on the pads before than someone who hasn’t,” Johnson said. “She understands the struggles of being a goalkeeper, where someone who was a field player might not understand the mindset that a goalkeeper has.”

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