Monday, April 13, 2015

Lamolinara excels in goal with help of jokester, erratic Daly

When Dominic Lamolinara walks out on the field before Saturday’s game against Princeton, he’ll know a familiar face will be firing shots his way in warm-ups.

Syracuse reserve Brenny Daly has become Lamolinara’s go-to warm-up guy this year after Lamolinara struggled to find a shooter that suited his needs last season. Daly’s erratic, unpredictable shot and his outlandish personality have helped Lamolinara earn the starting nod in net and improve his game all season. The duo will head out to the field once again on Saturday when No. 8 Syracuse (6-2, 2-1 Big East) faces No. 7 Princeton (6-2, 2-1 Ivy League) at Princeton Stadium in New Jersey.

“Dom and I have a great relationship,” Daly said. “We’re really good friends on and off the field. He’s playing great. He credits me a little bit, which I’ll take, but he’s playing awesome.”

Lamolinara and Daly first met in high school in the Baltimore area. Lamolinara was a standout goalie at St. Mary’s and Daly was a dominant midfielder at McDonogh, two schools that are approximately 40 miles away from each other. Daly redshirted last season and Lamolinara, after transferring from Maryland, started three games for Syracuse, splitting time with Bobby Wardwell.

Lamolinara struggled all season to find a warm-up guy that was exactly what he was looking for. Billy Ward, Dylan Donahue and Henry Schoonmaker, three of SU’s most prolific scorers, all gave it a shot.

But there was something wrong. They were all too accurate. They placed their shots exactly where Lamolinara asked them to. He wanted more unpredictability ― someone he could count on to do the exact opposite of what he expected: Daly.

The always-grinning, always-joking, often-bearded 5-foot-10-inch reserve. He’s only played three games this season, but every time Lamolinara trots onto the field prior to the opening faceoff, Daly’s the one rifling shots at him.

Lamolinara requested Daly in the fall. They had been friends and gotten along swimmingly, so Lamolinara figured he’d be a perfect choice for the job. Now they hang out off the field all the time, chowing down at Chipotle whenever possible.

“We always had that relationship,” Lamolinara said. “We were the Baltimore boys.”

Lamolinara remembers the first day of fall practice, a frigid Saturday. He and Daly were starting to develop even more of a rapport. Lamolinara was freezing, so he told Daly not to hit him with the ball.

Daly did not oblige. He rarely does. Daly, who Lamolinara called “the John Belushi of the team,” is always making a wisecrack or pulling a prank.

“He hit me and he hit me like three or four times,” Lamolinara said. “It kind of pissed me off. He was laughing. He thought it was hilarious.”

Daly isn’t only unpredictable when he tries to be, though. Lamolinara said if he asks for a shot top-right it will often go bottom-right. Daly can fire the ball at an absurdly fast speed, but he has very little control, Lamolinara said.

And that’s exactly what the goalie needs. So far the results have been tremendous. Lamolinara has replaced Wardwell as Syracuse’s starting goalie, allowing just 6.77 goals per game and saving 60.4 percent of shots that come his way, close to the best in the country.

Daly often apologizes repeatedly when he’s having a bad day and his shots are way off target, but Lamolinara always tells him to stop. It helps.

“I just tell him to calm down, it’s good, it’s helping me out,” Lamolinara said. “I think it’s taken six months for him to finally believe it.”

Daly even scored his first career goal against Providence, firing a shot from close to 17 yards out that elicited an uproar from the bench.

Lamolinara said Daly started running back on defense because he had no idea the shot went in. Then he heard the commotion from the bench and reveled in the glory as his teammates went crazy.

“Everybody loves Brenny. I couldn’t really explain it,” Lamolinara said. “He’s just that funny kid on the team. When he does well, everybody gets really excited.”

Ward loves playing with Daly, too. He said Daly is so outgoing that he could talk to a wall.

“If you left Brenny by himself with a wall he’d have a great time with it,” Ward said. “If you left him a half hour by himself he’d be having the time of his life. That’s just the kind of guy he is.”

Daly and Lamolinara chat before every practice and every game. Daly fires close to 65 shots. Lamolinara saves them ― two-thirds of them, Daly said ― as the two joke around for 15 minutes.

“I finally found a warm-up guy that I like,” Lamolinara said. “I’m sure I’ll keep him throughout the year. I’ll probably keep him next year as well.”

Published on April 4, 2013 at 1:26 am
Contact Trevor: | @TrevorHass

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