Typically, the men’s soccer team carries two goalkeepers on its roster, a safeguard against injury, and an assurance of flexibility should a replacement be needed. For GW, sophomore Brendan Lafferty is the more experienced starter and freshman Devon DuBay his backup. There’s just one problem for the Colonials: both Lafferty and DuBay are injured.
Enter junior Jake Davis, a defender with little-to-no experience in goal who has been the Colonial in front of the net since Lafferty sustained a concussion in his team’s season-opening loss to George Mason and suffered another in practice less than two weeks later. DuBay had already been sidelined before the season began after having surgery to repair a dislocated knee cap, so head coach George Lidster was forced to turn to Davis in goal.
“During a practice… he just jumped in goal and looked quite good,” Lidster said of his decision to make Davis his emergency goalie. “Jake’s a very good athlete, and it was just a natural thing for me to put him in goal when Brendan went down.”
Before making the move to goal, Davis had been limited in practice and had not played in any of his team’s preseason games. The junior has been recovering from surgery he had over the summer to correct compartment syndrome, which had been causing abnormal stress in Davis’ calves. Healing from that surgery left him unable to play in the field but didn’t affect any of the skills that make him a strong goalie, Lidster said.
“His best goalkeeping assets are his athletic ability, his instincts and his bravery,” the GW head coach said.
It’s a bizarre situation for Lidster, who said that in his 23 years of coaching he has “never” experienced anything like it. It’s even more bizarre for Davis, who has practically no experience in goal.
“I’ve never had any experience,” Davis said. “I played when I was 12 I think, but that’s pretty much it.”
Davis has been a quick study, however, working with the team’s coaching staff to learn his new position on the fly.
“Our goalkeeper coach Mike Madigan has been trying to teach him a few of his finer points of goalkeeping,” Lidster said. “But we have to make sure not to confuse him, and to break down his natural ability.”
Even with his natural ability, Davis has struggled with the transition to his new position. He has allowed 17 goals in the six games he’s played, and the team has gone 1-5 thus far with Davis in goal. Lafferty, the typical GW starter, said that despite the struggles to keep the Colonials’ opponents off the scoreboard, he has been impressed with Davis’ transition to goal.
“Jake’s stepped it up big time,” Lafferty said. “It’s not easy having a field player in goal at any time, but he’s very athletic and has used it to his advantage. He’s stepped it up.”
It has been the encouragement of his teammates, Davis said, that has made the move more manageable.
“They’ve been very supportive, very helpful. Obviously this is my first time playing this position. They’ve all been very instructive.”
After six games, Davis’ tenure as GW’s goalie could be coming to a close as soon as this weekend. Lafferty will be returning to practice Thursday, and if all goes well, he could be back in time for the Colonials’ home game Saturday against the University of the District of Columbia.
Kickoff for that game is set for 3 p.m.