August 23, 2009

Queener Quiets Outlaws with One Good Hand

by Andy Krauss | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Nationals goalie Brett Queener flashes his broken -- and swollen -- right hand Sunday after helping Toronto to a 10-9 win over the Denver Outlaws in the MLL championship game.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The MLL championship game Sunday was a story of three goalkeepers.  

One goalie was a three-year veteran, who not only won two national championships in college, but was named the NCAA Tournament's Most Valuable Player both times.  In his third year with the Denver Outlaws, Jesse Schwartzman was playing in his second championship game. This year's Warrior Goalkeeper of the Year had started all 14 games in goal for the Outlaws in 2009 and felt confident that he could take home his first Steinfeld Cup.

For the Toronto Nationals, two goalkeepers plotted this tale. Rookie Doc Schneider and second-year man Brett Queener had split time all season. That is, until Saturday. Minutes before their semifinal matchup against the Long Island Lizards, Queener was hit by a teammate's shot in the right hand, which according to him, broke his fourth metacarpal and forced him to sit out the entire game. 

"He couldn't even grip his stick," said Toronto head coach Dave Huntley.  "His hand was all swelled up. It wasn't a pain thing as much as it was a functional thing."

Schneider picked up the slack Saturday, making seven saves in the Nationals' 14-13 win. On Sunday, he was anointed the starter. Being the championship, he picked up his game and the spirits of the team with an awesome 12-save performance in the first half.

For all of Schneider's hard work, however, his team still trailed at halftime, 5-4.

"Our defense played unbelievable," said Schneider. "I saved the shots I was supposed to and the rest took care of itself."  

A big factor in Outlaws' lead at the break was Schwartzman, who had stopped 10 saves of his own.  In a league that thrives off of high-scoring games, this title tilt was becoming a bit of a conundrum.      

Schwartman felt like he was in a groove as well. "It was a regular day today," said Schwartzman.  "I felt really good."  

Queener felt better when he woke up Sunday morning, so it was decided that he could possibly play in the championship. That wasn't decided for sure until he received shots of adrenaline before the game and another just 30 seconds before the second half began.

"We didn't know if he was going to play until five of 12 (11:55 a.m.), when we had to submit the roster," said Huntley.  "If he wasn't ready to go, we had another plan. We were really glad he was able to play."

As soon as Queener stepped on the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, his hand was the last thing on his mind. He saved 11 of the 15 Outlaw shots that he faced in the second half, each more impressive and important than the previous.

"I fed off of my teammates' intensity," said Queener. "They played great offense and great defense. When it was time for me to come up with a save, I came up with a few. I'm not going to say that I was a big difference in this game, but I definitely contributed."

Schwartzman was equally impressive, making four additional saves in the second half.

But in the end, it was the Nationals who took home the 10-9 victory on Shawn Williams' shot that got past Schwartzman with just 45 seconds left on the clock.

The man on the sidelines that may have been the happiest for Queener was Schneider. "I was rooting Brett on just like I know he roots me on when he's on the sideline," he said.

"My hand was never on my mind, although I could hear it clicking during the game," Queener said. "I was just thinking I needed to make the next save.  I'm so happy I did it, because we won. I'm going to the hospital tonight."

It'll be a pretty good bet that he'll be the happiest guy in that building in upstate New York.


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