By Dalton Ray–
Heading into the 2016 lacrosse season, Louisville was expecting to make the next step. Starting 8-2 in 2015, the team finished the year at 10-8 and registered only two ACC wins. This year’s team had a lot of certainty but one huge question mark; who was going to be the goalkeeper?
The team lost two goalkeepers over the course of a year, which left only one goalie on the roster, Brittany Read. The sophomore from Gibbsboro, New Jersey has been forced into action and has blown everyone away. Read isn’t exactly a Rudy type of story, where she’s counted out and gets her one chance in college. In her high school career, she had over 600 saves and was an honorable mention as a U.S. Lacrosse All-American.
In her first full season as a starter, Read has tallied a 12-2 record and has made 106 saves to date. Her .515 save percentage ranks her ninth in the nation, while her 106 stops places her at 16th. Read has taken her one opportunity and ran with it. In just one year she went from being a backup playing in nine games to being one of the top goalkeepers in the nation.
Lacrosse is a big sport in the northeast, some of the nation’s top high school lacrosse programs are in Maryland, New York and New Jersey. So coming to down south to Louisville was a curious move to some, but not for Read.
“I visited a few other school’s and it just didn’t feel right, but when I got to campus here it was just different,” Read said. “When I came here I just didn’t want to leave, it felt like home. After coming here on visits I just knew this was going to be the place I was going to stay.”
Lacking confidence is something Read doesn’t experience. Despite the departure of two people in her position, Read didn’t skip a beat.
“It happens, it didn’t really affect me. You have to step up, that’s just what it comes down to,” Read said. “When it’s your time to shine you have to be ready to show up and play. When I came in last year the girl in front of me was one year older than me and people would always ask me, ‘Why did you pick Louisville if the person ahead of you is only a year ahead of you?’ And I just told them that didn’t bother me, I know what I’m capable of doing.”
Stepping up is exactly what Read has done this year. In some of the team’s biggest games of the year, she has been able to elevate her game. Her career high 13 saves came against then No. 10 Northwestern, the team’s first ever win over the national power.
Two days later, U of L faced off against fourth-ranked Notre Dame. With time running out, Read stuffed the Fighting Irish’s game-winning attempts at the end of regulation and again at the end of the first overtime. The Cardinals prevailed 10-9 in double-overtime.
The win is one of the biggest in program history. Read said the saves against ND didn’t seem as important in the moment but it hit her later.
“I would say that was my biggest moment as a Cardinal so far but it didn’t seem like that in the game,” Read said. “It just came natural to me, it didn’t feel like we were in overtime or time was running out. It felt like the first save of the game or the second, you can’t treat them differently. You just have to keep going until the final horn.”
Because of Louisville’s style of play team’s try to hold possession against them. To counter’s U of L’s quick striking and bunch scoring, teams attempt to slow the pace and control the game. The opposition constantly uses offensive rotations and cuts to play mind games with Read. She realizes she will be under pressure but relies on her defense to help out.
“You always have to be ready, our defense does a really good job of shutting down teams when they’re cutting and taking time down off the clock,” Read said. “We have to play our defense and play Louisville lacrosse every time we step on the field.”
Although Read is the last line of defense on her side of the field, she doesn’t see herself as the lone defensive captain.
“I don’t see myself as the only captain on the defense but I am one of them,” Read said. “There are a few of us out there that control the defense but overall we need the whole defense to step up. We can’t have just a few players step up, we have to all work together to be our best.”
Being the only goal keeper on the team can be tough but it does have its advantages. On one side, Read doesn’t get many breaks, but on the other she has to constantly go against great players. Her teammates Hannah Koloski, Kaylin Morissettee and Cortnee Daley have a combined 98 goals on the year and Read sees them everyday in practice.
“Next year we have two goalies coming in so practice will be a little easier but it does get hard this year,” Read said. “Going up against Hannah, Kay and Cortnee in practice is always going to make you better. But even more than just those three it’s the whole team really. Especially our defenders, they’re better shooters than what people would think. And their shots are important to take in practice because you never know when a defender will shoot in the game and you have to know how the ball will come out.”
Read has made unbelievable strides as a goalie since first stepping foot on campus. After arriving last spring, Read thinks extremely highly of coach Kellie Young and gives a lot credit to her coach.
“Coach Young has really done a lot for me. She did a lot to get me here since I came a semester late,” Read said. “She’s always there to encourage me and bring me up when I’m down or not having the best time in the net. Knowing that there’s no other goalie behind me she does a good job of keeping me confident and keeping me in line.”
In her short time at Louisville, Read has made a name for herself. She is on pace to set Louisville’s season-high in saves, the record currently sits at 144. Read is 39 saves away from breaking the record and is averaging 7.5 saves a game. With at least four games remaining on the year the New Jersey native is on track to own the record.
Read has only let up two double-digit games, against thirteenth-ranked Duke and third-ranked North Carolina. She also recently joined Morissettee on the Tewaaraton Award Women’s Watch List, recognizing the top women’s lacrosse player. Read looks to continue to improve as the Cardinals face their final two games against ranked opponents. Fifteenth-ranked Virginia will be senior day for the Cards Saturday April 16 and the regular season finale is on the road against fourth-ranked Syracuse on Apr. 23.
Photo by Dalton Ray / The Louisville Cardinal