Maggie Koch has come a long way.

She’s traveled from a small Pennsylvania high school to mid-major Drexel to No. 3 Georgetown.

She’s improved from good high school goalie to better college goalie to the best goalie in the country.

She’s changed from quiet and shy to quietly confident.

But if you ask her, she still has a long way to go – she still has to become a champion.

Koch’s story begins in Philadelphia. Unlike many of her teammates, when it came time to choose a sport in middle school, Koch didn’t follow in the footsteps of an older sibling, let alone have legendary Hoya stars to teach her the game in the backyard like senior attacker Coco Stanwick did. Her parents had not been big into lacrosse. But it looked fun, so Koch (pronounced “Cook”) gave it a try.

Throughout her high school career, Koch was a standout on the soccer field and the basketball court, but it was on the lacrosse field that she made a name for herself. As a senior, she was a captain and an all-American.

Still, despite her success, college coaches weren’t exactly knocking down Koch’s door. Recruiters paid relatively little attention to tiny Springside School in the City of Brotherly Love, and Drexel seemed like her only option.

Koch arrived on campus across town with mixed emotions. The good news was the Dragons were coming off of their best season since 1992-93. The bad news was that their record was only 8-8.

As the starting goalie her freshmen season, Koch helped the Dragons jump out to a 5-0 start and a 10-7 record overall, but the team was hardly in a position to win its league, let alone compete nationally.

Worse, though, were the team’s defensive difficulties. Koch made 197 saves in 17 games, still a career high, but because her defense allowed so many shots, she allowed 156 goals, or 10.2 per contest. Her 55.6 save percentage was more than respectable – last year, as the national goalie of the year, she saved shots at a 57.2 percent clip – but the beating she took was not. Last season, instead of 353 shots, she was confronted a far more manageable 292.

One season at Drexel was more than enough. Koch doesn’t go into depth on why exactly she left – “most of it was lacrosse-based,” she says – but she adds that after her freshman season, she was so frustrated that she didn’t even want to play lacrosse if she was going to stay at Drexel.

The choice was clear: It was time for a change of scenery.

Koch set out in search of greener pastures and found them on a Hilltop.

Though she looked at a number of schools, she only applied to Georgetown.

“A lot of the reason was [junior attacker] Zan orley,” Koch says. “I talked to her about it and I talked to a couple other people and it seemed like a great place. Obviously the team was really good, so I gave it a shot.”

While the season at Drexel was difficult, according to Brooke Fritz, Koch’s coach in high school, it was not without its boons. “She really proved to herself that she was the real deal,” Fritz says.

Koch’s first season on the shores of the Potomac may not have been easy, but thanks to her teammates, it wasn’t too difficult, either.

“My class was great. They were very welcoming, which was nice, because I am really shy around people I don’t know,” Koch says. “That was hard, but I felt comfortable pretty quickly.”

On the field, the level of play was significantly higher than it had been at Drexel. Add to that the fact that Georgetown already had an established goalie in Sarah Robinson (SFS ’05), and the sum was Koch spending much of her first season on the bench.

Still, there were flashes of potential.

In an April 16, 2005 game against Notre Dame, Robinson made 10 first-half saves and helped to give the Hoyas a big lead. Given the chance to play the second half, Koch took advantage of the opportunity and made 11 saves. Head Coach Ricky Fried and the rest of the squad got just a small sneak preview of things to come.

Fried points to that afternoon as a critical one in Koch’s development.

“She knew she belonged,” he says.

Koch’s improvement last season was evident.

“I just had to step it up, so that’s pretty much it,” she says, matter-of-factly.

And step it up she did.

In all, Koch put together double-digit saves eight times. She started all 18 games, made 167 saves, posted a 6.8 goals against average and stopped 57.2 percent of the shots that came her way. She helped the Hoyas to a 14-4 record and a trip to the NCAA quarterfinals. She was named first team all-Big East, Big East defensive player of the year, a first team IWLCA all-American and the national goalie of the year.

Not only did Koch improve drastically between her sophomore and junior seasons, but her development from the start of 2006 to the year’s end was astounding.

“I would say the confidence just started to build throughout the season,” she says. “Going through games and doing relatively well, you just start to believe in yourself more.”

The key to her success? Some might say it’s her intensity; others point to strong stick skills; many attribute it to confidence. Maybe it’s a combination of all three. Or maybe it’s Lil Bow Wow.

Before each game, Koch plays wall ball and drinks a blue Powerade. Then she dons her high socks. The she listens to `Playing the Game’ by Lil Bow Wow.

Aside from the sports drinks and rap songs, Fritz says getting snubbed by so many of her opponents during the recruiting process pushes Koch to play that much harder.

“She certainly has a chip on her shoulder from recruiting,” Fritz says, “but in hindsight, things couldn’t have worked out any better.”

Koch is the third Hoya ever to earn national goalie-of-the-year honors, following in the footsteps of Chris Lindsey (GSB ’98) in 1998 and Bowen Holden (COL ’01, GRD ’06), now the head coach at Boston College, in 2001.

Still, Koch is quick to remind you: “Compared to winning a national championship, awards mean nothing.”

The praise Koch has earned from national pundits is nothing compared to the admiration she receives from the people who know her best.

“There are so many games that we should have lost that we won because of her,” Stanwick says. “There are so many goals that should have gone in on any other goalie in the country that didn’t go in.”

“I don’t think you realize until you watch films on tape or watch after the fact the impact she has. Not because of the saves she makes, but the confidence that she gives our defenders on the field,” Fried says.

Asked how important Koch is to the team, Asselin, one of those very defenders, replies, “Very. Essential. Crucial. Can’t play without a good goalie.”

Another key to Koch’s success is her intensity. After nearly every goal she allows, she tosses the ball back to midfield with disgust. Her disapproval with every miscue, small and large, is obvious, but according to most, her insistence on perfection is one of her strongest attributes.

“She does get really upset with herself,” says Fritz, who is still close to Koch. “But she doesn’t let it linger. She is also good at not getting upset when the other team scores on a good shot.”

“I’m really hard on myself,” Koch says. “I actually do look at that as a strength because I can’t stand to get scored on, it makes me so mad, so that makes me work harder.”

But such intensity doesn’t mean Koch can’t enjoy a lighter moment or two every now and then. Stanwick affectionately terms Koch “Julie the Cat,” an allusion to the cat-quick reflexes of Julie Gaffney of “Mighty Ducks” lore. The moniker draws laughter and a sheepish grin from the nation’s top goaltender.

Others on the team refer to her as “Mommy,” a self-imposed nickname which has now been shortened to “Mom.” Asked to explain her maternal name, Stanwick, Koch and Asselin burst into laughter and try to tell a story, but any insight is lost in the apparent hilarity of the question.

As it often does with Koch and her teammates, discussion quickly shifts away from the lighthearted and back to the serious issue at hand: winning a national title.

“I think that traditionally Georgetown has always been led by the senior class,” Stanwick says. “I think everyone is on the same page. We mentioned [our goals] earlier and everyone is on board.”

Maggie Koch has been a Lion, a Dragon, and now a Hoya. She has been compared to sharp-witted feline and a nurturing mother. She has stopped shots in the nation’s first capital and it’s current one, and still hasn’t found anyone who can stop her. But until the winding road leads her to an NCAA championship, Koch’s quest will remain unfulfilled. Ironically, should Koch find herself on top of the lacrosse world this May, she will have traveled a complete 360 degrees.

Should her senior season conclude with her hoisting the championship trophy on Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, Maggie Koch will honestly be able to say she has taken the road less traveled – and it has made all the difference.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.