MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2012
Tobin's getting her ducks in a row
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You remember at the carnival shooting gallery where the little ducks went back and forth and you fired away at them?

Well, JU goal keeper Karli Tobin can relate because when she came to the team she was in that shooting gallery playing the role of … the ducks.

“It was interesting, to say the least, because coming from my high school (Moorestown HS), we were the best team in New Jersey so on average I saw about five shots a game,’’ Tobin said. “When I got here and we were the underdog and everybody was piling shots on us it was verrry different.’’

How different?

After seeing five or so shots a game in high school, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County welcomed Tobin to Division I on Feb. 6, 2010, by firing 40 shots at the overwhelmed freshman. Tobin made 15 saves, but 18 got through as the Dolphins fell, 18-2.

That was the start of a long learning process for Tobin. Not only was she learning advanced Xs and Os on the field, she was learning how to deal with being on the receiving end of a barrage of shots .

“She has really improved and keeps getting more focused,’’ coach Mindy McCord said. “She's key to our transition game and when she is playing at a high level it takes pressure off the rest of the defense.’’

Over time, she has developed the knack to block out everything but the ball so well that her career record is 30-18 and that includes that 5-9 first-year mark.

“I just focus on the ball and everything else happens with it,’’ she said. “If I’m zoom focused on the ball it’s like a beach ball, it gets that big. When you’re zoom focused on the ball as a goalie, that’s all you’re tracking it’s your whole vision.’’

Not every thing works every time, however.

“Some days you can’t save a beach ball though,’’ she said with a laugh. “Some days your mind’s not there and you can’t save the beach ball, it’s more like a marble coming at you.’’

On those occasions the beach ball is acting like a marble, Tobin said she has learned not to accept it but not to go overboard.

“Goalie is 80 percent mental 20 percent physical,’’ she said. “You see some goalies, when they get scored on, slam the stick. I would get upset but I was not a stick slammer or anything. ‘’

What she would do is get down on herself.

“It’s not that I accept it but it’s (keeping an even keel) something I’ve been working on to overcome,’’ she said. “I still get upset with myself because I want to be at my best every game.’’

Much of the help has come from a variety of coaches including current goalie coach Adam Norton.

“He has helped me understand that when a person is in the kill zone right in front of the cage,’’ she said, “a lot of people can score from there and you have to accept that but still strive to get the shot.’’

And the next shot, and the next, and the next.

“It’s always about the next one. Even if you make a save it’s about the next one.’’

Now that she has laser-honed her focus, Tobin finds that at the end of every game three things happen: she releases the focus; she is exhausted and every game ends the same.

She can’t predict how she’ll release the pressure. Sometimes she breaks down in tears, sometimes she is euphoric. After the release, exhaustion.

“I am completely exhausted,’’ the education major/business minor said. “People think that goalie is not tiring and I get that. I go on pregame runs to help relax but the amount of stress mentally in a game is high.’’

And, after exhaustion sets in comes the headache.

“Normally after a game I have a terrible headache because I’m so focused during the game,’’ she said. “I sleep very well after a game.’’

She also reaches for her new best-post-game friend.

“Motrin,’’ she said. “I have a full stash of it.’’

- Jim Nasella