Carr drives men's soccer to brink of Ivy championship

by Brad Limpert | 11/14/02 6:00am

If you asked the members of the Dartmouth men's soccer team six months ago if they thought Saturday's game against Brown would have Ivy League title implications for the Big Green, they surely would have said yes. If you told them they would get to this point with a lacrosse player in goal, they may not have been so sure.

One thing that makes sports so exciting, particularly at the college level, is the fact that you can always expect the unexpected. It could be the baseball game that goes 18 innings with the manager -- having used all of his available pitchers -- forced to put his third baseman on the mound to close out the game. It might be a football team using a wide receiver at quarterback after injuries or a basketball team playing with only four players after everyone else fouled out.

For the Dartmouth men's soccer team, the surprise has been dealing with an unprecedented goalie situation that has seen Doug Carr '03 fill a void to allow the Big Green to compete for a share of the Ivy League title Saturday against Brown.

The Big Green has had a long tradition of excellence in goal. In recent years, Matt Nyman '99 left Hanover to pursue a successful career playing in the MLS. Nyman's graduation turned the reins over to Ben Gebre-Medhin '02. After a successful three-year stint that saw him etch his name among the best keepers in school history, Gebre-Medhin was set to pass the torch to Wojtek Zarzycki '05.

Over the summer, however, Zarzyncki signed a professional contract with a Canadian club team and decided not to return for his sophomore season. With two goalies in the incoming Class of 2006, it appeared as if the goalie problem would be manageable.

When projected starter Mike Conway suffered a season-ending injury during the first week of preseason, the problem quickly became a crisis.

In stepped Carr. A member of the Dartmouth lacrosse team who hadn't played soccer since high school, Carr met the team at the airport prior to squad's tour of Scotland.

"When I got the call from Coach Cook explaining the situation, I was in San Francisco visiting some friends," Carr explained. "They were leaving for Scotland in three days.

"I flew home early to meet them and was worried I might be a complete waste in net for them. However, I went into the situation just to see if I could compete and how I could play. After all, it was a trip to Scotland and I heard they had great steak pies."

By the time the Big Green returned to the United States 10 days later, Carr had won the starting job and was already starting to win over his new teammates.

"The early season situation was tough for everybody involved," Scott Lish '03 said, "but Doug came in with nothing to lose, and has played with confidence from the start."

A lot of that confidence can be traced to Lish and the rest of the Big Green's back four. Dartmouth's stifling defense eased the pressure on Carr in the early weeks while he became reacquainted with soccer. As the season progressed, Carr gained the opportunity to flourish in his own right alongside the defense. Carr and the defense have combined for five shutouts on the season.

Carr was quick to praise the guys taking care of business in front of him.

"I have also been very lucky to have such a great defense playing in front of me that is very experienced and very solid. They have helped me become comfortable in goal and settle in, as well as bail me out a few times."

Along the way, Carr has been able to win the confidence of his new teammates with his athletic prowess and the ability to come in and compete at the highest level. In just his fourth game, Carr was between the nets against Stanford, the top-ranked team in the land.

Carr has twice been named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week and has the potential to pull off the rare feat of capturing rookie-of-the-year accolades as a senior.

"The confidence our team has in Doug may be surprising to other teams that know about our situation," Lish added. "As the season has progressed, though, Doug has become more focused in games and just gotten better. He is great coming off his line, and he deals with crosses very well."

Along with praising Carr's adjustments to his new sport, team captain Tom Billings '03 pointed out some of the intangibles Carr brings to the team.

"His performances speak for themselves, and he's certainly added an extra element to the locker room banter. It's been a unique situation in which both Doug and the team have thrived."

Looking back, it appears Carr hardly regrets his decision.

"Coming to a team that has a good chance for an Ivy League title was a pretty strong selling point. It's been a great experience that has had its ups and downs, but I look forward to the possibility of an NCAA berth to continue our success."

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