WLAX : Queener brings versatile goaltending, scoring background to coaching staff
Without All-American Liz Hogan in net, Gary Gait turned to a professional to mentor the inexperienced goaltenders tasked with filling her place.
Gait hired Brett Queener, the goalie for the Hamilton Nationals of Major League Lacrosse, as a volunteer assistant on his Syracuse staff. And Queener went from playing for Gait and assistant coach Regy Thorpe last summer to coaching alongside them this spring.
‘They lost their four-year starting goalie and needed some extra help,’ Queener said, ‘so they called me up.’
Queener got the job because of his playing experience in net, which gives him intricate knowledge of nearly every position on the field. As a player in 2007, Queener helped guide Albany to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals before leading the Rochester Rattlers to win the 2008 Steinfeld Cup during his rookie season in the MLL. Queener’s resume made him an ideal choice to teach the young goaltending duo of Alyssa Costantino and Kelsey Richardson.
Under Queener’s guidance, Costantino has compiled an impressive 12-1 record to help the No. 2 Orange (13-2, 6-0 Big East) emerge as one of the top teams in the country this season. Richardson has been a capable backup, playing in 12 of SU’s 15 games thus far.
‘(He) brings a great focus to that goalie position,’ Gait said, ‘and I think it’s helped our goalies improve immensely.’
The new Syracuse coach brings the perfect background to the team’s coaching staff. While he spent the majority of his time at Albany in net, he also had the versatility to join the Great Danes’ attack at times.
His playing career was marked by numerous dazzling plays.
In Queener’s first game with the Great Danes, the goaltender carried the ball the length of the field to score a goal against defending national champion Johns Hopkins. In man-up situations, Queener was even more of an offensive threat. The goalie would trade his wide-pocketed goalkeeper stick out for a short stick and join the attack.
In three seasons at Albany, Queener scored five goals and tallied five assists while running the point on extra-man opportunities. The goalkeeper’s offensive prowess even earned him a spot as a forward on National League Lacrosse’s Boston Blazers. In three seasons with the Blazers, Queener has scored eight times.
‘He’s not just a goalie. He plays field too, so he knows every little thing,’ Syracuse attack Michelle Tumolo said. ‘So even if he’s goalie coach he’ll tell me ‘do this’, or he’s an amazing trick shot shooter so he’ll tell me, ‘try to do this.”
Queener and Tumolo often compete in trick shot competitions during practice.
The Orange has reaped the benefits of some of these competitions with some highlight-reel goals. Against Rutgers, Tumolo used a hidden ball trick to set up a goal. Against Dartmouth, she sent a pass through four defenders that resulted in another score.
Throughout his career, Queener was known as a high-energy player, making him the right fit to help coach the Orange’s fast-paced, high-intensity style of play. And he has brought that same mentality to the defense led by the goalies this year.
‘He just brings like a lot of energy and he’s been helping us as defenders, too,’ SU defender Becca Block said. ‘And just making sure specific words that the goalies will say to us, that helps us.’
His most profound effect has been on the defensive end, teaching the young goalies and helping them find their comfort zone.
Costantino has transformed from a seldom-used freshman into the nation’s best goalie in terms of save percentage. As for Richardson, the freshman has posted a solid .509 save percentage.
Both goalkeepers came to SU as highly touted recruits, but their lack of experience was the biggest question hanging over this season. Thanks in large part to Queener, those questions have been answered.
‘Brett’s really helped out their confidence, both of them, a ton,’ Block said. ‘Now, I don’t even notice that they’re goalies that we haven’t been playing with for the past years.’
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