Shooting from the Hip with Adam Ghitelman
Senior Adam Ghitelman is the current ACC Defensive Player of the Week after becoming the league’s all-time goalie wins leader against then No. 14 Cornell in the Face-Off Classic last Saturday. The Cold Spring, N.Y., native recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to discuss how he chose the goalie position, what goes into honing his skills, stick selection and playing side-by-side with his younger brother, Jacob, a UVa midfielder.
Question: How did you first start playing the goalkeeper position? Would you say you chose it, or did it choose you?
Ghitelman: Originally I was a soccer player, and I guess I got involved in goalie playing soccer and was playing at a young age. At home, lacrosse is something you start out with real early. It’s really engrained in our community. I got involved in lacrosse, and figured, why not transition from sport-to-sport? I fit well into the mold of the goalie, I guess, and it ended up working out.
Question: What is a typical ‘goalie practice’ like for you?
Ghitelman: I usually get out there early before practice starts and get in some softer shots than you might usually see, just so I can start to see the ball. The ball’s really small, just getting in tune to the ball and getting a goalie warm-up in is important. After that, we do normal stretching with the team and get warm. Then you see a lot of shots in practice. Being at Virginia, I’m lucky enough to see some of the best shooters everyday. That helps me a lot going through the week. It’s fun-it’s a lot of fun.
Question: Outside of getting in shots during practice, how else can goalkeepers prepare for an opponent?
Ghitelman: Film is actually a huge aspect of my preparation for games. Knowing where guys are looking to shoot in certain situations and their technique, and form can key you in on different spots in the net where they’re trying to shoot. The ball’s so small and the net’s so big-any way you can help yourself out is good, and film is definitely something that helps.
Question: What kind of shooting tendencies do you typically look for during a pre-game film session?
Ghitelman: Where they release the ball, how far they bring the stick back, the angle they shoot from, the spots they like to shoot from on the run. Whether they like to shoot to the far side is something you might think about, or if they catch the ball close and then like to fake high and shoot low. Knowing those things and keeping stuff like that in the back of your mind during the game can really help.
Question: Since coming to Virginia, have you noticed any difference between shooters at the high school level and shooters in the college game?
Ghitelman: Coming from high school, I noticed a lot of guys tended to shoot lower. Coming to college was something I had to adjust to. You have a habit of creating what we call a ‘hitch’-when you drop your hands because you’re so used to saving low shots. Guys at this level can shoot the ball from a high angle to the top of the net, so if you have any sort of bad movement, it’s a loss of motion and you lose that millisecond. The ball is moving so fast that you don’t have time to catch up to it. Over the course of my career, I’ve gotten a lot better at saving the higher shots. Especially being a shorter stature, it’s definitely something to improve.
Question: Are there ever days when it seems you are particularly “keyed in” and feel as though you are seeing the ball unusually well?
Ghitelman: Sometimes you have this kind of innate feeling. You go out there and have a good warm-up, and you feel like the ball is the size of a beach ball. You get out there in the game, and it helps to make the first save. You get your confidence up, and things just go from there. You’ve got to stay mentally tough throughout the game. You may start with three saves in a row, but you’ve got to avoid thinking about your statistics. You’ve got to be thinking about keeping the ball out of the net and helping your team win.
Question: While you attracted a lot of attention in last year’s NCAA Tournament by making several opportune saves en route to the semifinals, your personalized stick also drew some notice. What inspired your idea to dye it?
Ghitelman: I have used a colored stick since I can remember. I’m just into different types and interesting styles, but I try to cater to our colors. It’s actually a t-shirt or fabric dye that you use. You boil water and then you dump it in. It gets into the stick plastic and dyes the stick. It doesn’t even come out-it’s basically engrained in the plastic. You can do a lot of different decorations and techniques, but I’m not that advanced. I just did something simple for NCAAs, and it ended up coming out pretty cool.
Question: Do you have a ‘lucky’ stick?
Ghitelman: Goalie sticks don’t tend to have very long lives, especially at this level. The balls are moving so fast that the plastic ends up wearing down really easily. I’m moving on from stick-to-stick throughout the year. I probably go through four sticks a year, I can’t have any attachment problems with my sticks.
Question: Your younger brother, Jacob, is a redshirt freshman midfielder on the Cavalier squad. What is it like having him as a teammate?
Ghitelman: We were really close in age-he’s about a year and a half younger than I am-so we’ve been playing together for a long time. Having him here, playing with me, is something really special. I get to see him everyday, and watching him grow as a person and as a player is something I’ve really enjoyed. It’s something that I’m going to cherish moving on and that I’m going to miss next year, especially when I’m not here.
Question: Speaking of next year, do you have any post-college career plans yet?
Ghitelman: No immediate work plans right now. I plan to move out to Denver for the summer because the Denver Outlaws of the Major League Lacrosse league drafted me. There’s a bunch of guys out there who graduated from UVa. Hopefully I can find some steady work, keep playing lacrosse, and continue to spread the game out there in the West. It should be fun and exciting for me. I also hope I can come back next year and help coach the UVa in some form, or at least help in some way.