She's a Keeper

Diminutive Goalie Allie Shropshire Makes Up for Her Lack of Size With Infectious Aggressiveness and Spirit

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Allie Shropshire is hard to pick out among the lacrosse players surrounding the goal.

Three opposing attackers, all at least five inches taller than her, are trying to find a way to score while two Cal defenders further crowd the space. Suddenly, a stick snatches away an opponent's pass and the group disperses. Standing alone is a triumphant Shropshire with the ball. Through her mask, one can see a determined face, with the barest hint of a smile.

Most women's lacrosse goalkeepers are content standing firmly in the goal and waiting for the offense to shoot.

But Shropshire is not most goalies.

When the offense approaches, she steps many meters out of her box to get a stick in the way of errant throws. As a result, she was 14th in the nation for ground balls last spring, higher than any other goalie. So far this season, she is second in the MPSF at her position with 22.

This aggressive mentality is a trademark of the 5-foot-3 senior.

"I may have always been a little short, but I'm also definitely a firecracker," she says laughing.

"My favorite athlete is Trent Cole, the defensive end for the Eagles. He's just ferocious. That's absolutely my style."

As a sophomore at Shawnee High School in Medford, N.J., Shropshire loved basketball. The physicality of the sport appealed to the fiery teenager, sometimes a bit too much. After fracturing the ball of her foot while running after a teammate in practice, Shropshire was sidelined for the season. Restless from healing on the bench all winter, she decided to try her hand at lacrosse in the spring.

She took to the sport quickly, but had trouble finding a niche - that is, until she first stood in the goal box after volunteering to replace her fatigued teammate during a practice. The defensive control of the position soon made lacrosse more appealing than the limited opportunities of a short basketball player. Shropshire put the goalkeeping mask on and soon realized she never wanted to take it off.

After a highly successful high school career, including a stint with the U.S. U-19 national team, Shropshire was recruited by perennial powerhouse North Carolina. Despite her interest in UNC, she still decided to visit Cal. After all, who would turn down four free days in California?

Shropshire was instantly enamored. Feeling that the team's chemistry made up for the 2,500 miles of separation from her friends and family, she took a chance on Cal and committed.

The move has paid off for both Shropshire and the lacrosse program. With 314 career saves and a goals against average (GAA) of 10.21, the 2010 MPSF All-Tournament selection has helped the Bears to an 11-6 record in MPSF play over the last three seasons. Most importantly for her, the team has already matched last year's win total, going 8-4 overall this season with a 2-0 conference record.

When Shropshire's teammates describe her as "explosive," they are not only referring to her lively personality. In a heartbreaking, season-ending loss to Stanford last year, the co-captain erupted for a career-high 17 saves.

This season, Shropshire picked up right where she left off, with 12 saves in Cal's conference opener victory against UC Davis, the third-highest scoring offense in the nation.

The most crucial of these saves came when the Bears clung to a narrow 13-11 lead. With a chance to pull within one, the Aggie attacker flung the ball towards the goal, Shropshire anticipated the shot and lunged her stick to the left, successfully stopping Davis's rally in their tracks.

"She is our anchor defensively and the general of this team," coach Theresa Sherry said.

Not everything has been smooth sailing for Shropshire, though.

One day last February, while practicing the way she approaches everything - 100 percent - Shropshire ruptured a disc in her lower back. Since then, she has struggled with the sharp, cutting pain while undergoing months of weekly physical therapy.

She has channeled her energy into her recovery, but the pain remains. The slow process has prompted her to mature as an athlete and as a person.

"It's been tough to deal with," she said. "But the way I've matured and grown from dealing with this, at the end of the day I'm proud of that."

Shropshire's development came none too early for the Bears. A shocked lacrosse team was sent reeling when the university announced in September that it was one of five sports programs being cut. As the squad dealt with decisions to transfer, and a media frenzy, Shropshire stood tall. After all, it was just another attack to stop, another point to save.

According to the team, her leadership helped keep them together and focused on preparing for the upcoming season. In February, Cal announced that lacrosse would be saved.

"I think we're closer than before as a team," Shropshire says. "Our chemistry is unreal and I love that we all are really close, especially with the freshmen, on this young team."

For the moment, Shropshire is focused on the rest of her final season and the legacy she will leave behind.

"If I can be remembered for one thing at Cal, I want it to be how hard I played," Shropshire says.

She pauses.

"And for how much I cared for my teammates."

Not surprisingly, even the future fails to intimidate Shropshire.

She seems genuinely excited about her plans after graduating in May. The legal studies major hopes to take a year off before pursuing her dream of law school and working in prosecution.

If her intense pursuit of a lacrosse ball is any indication, future criminals won't stand a chance.

Tags: CAL LACROSSE, THERESA SHERRY, ALLIE SHROPSHIRE


Jennifer Hansen covers lacrosse. Contact her at [email protected]



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