This season, the men's soccer team has been lucky to have a big man on campus on their side.
At 6' 4", 200 pounds, Ben Gebre-Medhin '02 has been described as having quick reflexes and a lot of athletic ability. With his size though, he could be the defensive back for the football team or the basketball team's swingman. Ben Gebre-Medhin is neither of these. He is that last line of defense for the men's soccer team -- the goalkeeper.
He was introduced to soccer by his father as child growing up in Massachusetts.
"My father played soccer when he was younger, so he got me into the youth teams, and got me interested in the game," Gebre-Medhin said on a busy afternoon at Collis. "I was touching the ball from the time I was three or four and I found out I was good at it and enjoyed it."
"I picked up basketball, and baseball along the way, but soccer [has always been] my favorite game. It was my first game," Gebre-Medhin said.
Although he did experiment at other positions, by the time he was eleven, he'd found a home in the net.
"I could tell, early on that [goalkeeper] was my position," he said with a smile. "There was something about itit was me."
When high school came around, Gebre-Medhin's skills were exceptional. He was recruited by the prestigious Buckingham, Browne, and Nichols School. While there, he lettered four times and earned all-conference honors three times. He was also a three-time all-state and two-time regional pick.
With such an illustrious high school career behind him, Gebre-Medhin faced the tough choice of where to continue his soccer career -- Dartmouth, UNC-Chapel Hill, Boston University, Brown, Columbia, William & Mary, or Virginia.
"Soccer was a major concern for me when choosing a school," he said. "It's tough to be a goalkeeperthere's only one spot on the field [for you] to play so you have to [think carefully] about all the places you're looking at.You don't really want to come in and wait for three years to get your shot at it. Here, everything worked out the best for meespecially since it's a great academic school."
Another factor that drew Gebre-Medhin to Hanover was Dartmouth's Head Coach, Fran O'Leary.
"I had heard a lot of great stuff about him from my high school coachesand he [had] put together an amazing record my senior year in high school -- that was the year that [Dartmouth] went to the NCAA tournament and I wanted to be in that position."
It would be unfair to say Dartmouth was completely devoid of goalkeepers when they asked Gebre-Medhin to come play for the Big Green.
Dartmouth's had two strong starting prospects in Robbie Barbero '01 and Michael Brennan '01. When the starting job opened up this year with the graduation of one of the nation's best netminders, Matt Nyman -- all three were looked at extensively.
"I like [Robbie and Michael] both. They're great guys. We would have backed whoever ended up [with the starting job]," O'Leary said of his decision to go with Gebre-Medhin.
At this point in the season, it would appear that O'Leary made the right choice. Nine games into a seventeen game season, Gebre-Medhin has a 1.67 goals against average, including a shutout.
A 0.78 goals per game average has sent the Big Green reeling this season. Now at the season's midpoint Dartmouth stands at 1-6-2, with a 1-2-1 record in the Ivy league.
"We only played one game that's been decided by more than a goalit's really heartbreaking to lose six games [that way]," Gebre-Medhin said thoughtfully.
"Soccer is a game of luck," he said of the disappointing season thus far. "I feel like we're so close. All the tools we need to do it are there, there's just one thing -- some intangible that we're missing right now," he said.
Although the Big Green still can't identify what the team is missing, Gebre-Medhin and others on the team are optimistic.
"We're a young side who will get better and better and gain a lot of experience," Gebre-Medhin pointed out. "If we can beat a team like Yale, there's no stopping us. We can beat just about anyone in the country."
"I'm not intimidated by any team we play," he said.
Away from the field, he keeps busy with a full course load, and if that wasn't enough, he is a pledge at Alpha Delta fraternity this term.
The future seems bright for Gebre-Medhin and the Big Green both for the rest of this year as well as next. For now though, he is concerned with keeping his grades up and balls out of the net, which is all anyone could ask.