April 18, 2013
Though she has been playing lacrosse since the fourth grade, goalie Kim Kolarik's career really began when she was in the sixth grade.
"Everyone in elementary and middle school is forced into playing goalie at some time or another," Kolarik laughs. "When they put me in goal in sixth grade, I actually did really well. It was such a different position on the field. Everyone could be an attacker. Everyone could be a defender. When I played goalie and actually showed some skill at it, it was something I was better than everyone else at and I knew I could excel in the future if I kept up with it."
Kolarik's coach was ecstatic that she wanted to be a goalie. Her mother, Bonnie, was not quite as enthused by the prospect of people constantly throwing balls at her daughter. In the end, Kolarik never again left the cage.
In the early going, her coach, Carol Mattingly, would fill tennis balls with water to make them heavier and helped Kolarik overcome instinctive fear.
From the humble beginnings, Kolarik has blossomed into a lauded netminder. She was named to the preseason 2013 Tewaaraton Award women's watch list after becoming the first Virginia player in program history to win three ACC Defensive Player of the Week awards in a season.
"I think I am pretty active and I have a good field sense, so I can not only see the ball, but all of my players," Kolarik said, describing her goalkeeping style. "I am also engaged in the play, whether it be trying to get an interception behind or kind of cheating out and hedging on a crease roll to help my defense get in. I feel that I see a lot and I able to help them. Even in practice, if I see something, I let them know `hey watch your stick on this'."
Playing goal for Kolarik is more than just stopping shots fired in by attackers. The goalkeeper is the one person with a clear view of the entire field and as such becomes the director on the field, trying to coordinate defense as well as helping the offense.
"I am yelling where the ball is, who is open, numbers we need to cover," Kolarik said. "I'm also checking back side, making sure that if someone is sliding to ball, that their girl gets covered as well. I'm also kind of an eighth defender out there if they need me to slide. If not, I'm standing in my goal and when they are about to shoot, I just kind of shut up in my mind and play the ball, stay ready."
Kolarik's senior season hasn't quite gone as she had planned after a hand injury sidelined her for several weeks.
"When it first happened, I was very upset," Kolarik said of her injury. "It is my senior year, my last year here. I am not one to sit still on the sidelines, but everything happens for a reason. You have to make the most of the situation."
For Kolarik, `making the most of her situation' wasn't just a cliché. She has actively made that a reality.
"I want to coach college lacrosse when I graduate," Kolarik said. "I used this as a way to pay attention more to how the coaches respond to things on the playing field for gains and how they coordinate practices. I talk to Coach Myers a lot during practices and was great to be able to interact with coaches in a different way. I was also able to help [goalkeeper] Liz Colgan more because I could see things from the sidelines that I wouldn't have noticed when I was out there playing. I've tried to help her as much as I can."
Despite the injury, the History major's favorite class this semester is `Learn to Groove' which incorporates meditation and bongo playing.
"Even with my hand, I am still able to play," Kolarik said. "My professor, Robert Jospe, has been awesome and so nice. I know it is not very academic, but it is very fun and kind of a release to meditate. I'm also in a Nazi Germany class this year for my last history credit. It is so interesting, but it is a lot of work and a lot of reading. So to have a class to complement that is kind of nice."
There are two people that Kolarik knows are responsible for her being where she is today, whether it be in goal, on the sidelines or behind the bongos.
"I really want to thank my parents for everything they have done from the early stages of playing club ball to recruiting to here at UVa," Kolarik said. "They have always been behind me and always supported everything. Even when I hurt myself, they were like `It's just another bump in the road. You'll be back out there.' They have been behind me the entire time."