Grow makes the extraordinary seem easy

During the course of an evenly contested match, the goalkeeper will usually have to make one or two key saves if his team is to have a chance.

If he manages to keep the ball out of the net at those critical junctures, the goalkeeper not only inspires his teammates but also demoralizes the opposition.

Steven Grow affirmed this notion Friday.

After mounting one unsuccessful wave of attack after another in the first half of the men's soccer game at Valley Fields, Drake appeared on the verge of breaking through to tie the game at the start of the second half.

Jesse Baker received the ball at the top of Marquette's penalty box when he had defenders on either side of him, but no one was marking goal-side.

So with one adept turn, the senior midfielder left a line of Marquette players in his wake and was in alone on Grow, the 5-foot-9 goalkeeper.

Baker sent his right-footed shot from point blank range towards the lower left corner, but Grow dove along the ground and made the save. The score remained 1-0.

"I think that save frustrated them a little bit," Grow said. "…They had one shot after that. It went over the bar. They had crosses that went on the turf."

That might have been Grow's most important save, but it was not his only one.

The Bulldogs had five shots on goal, but the agile sophomore turned away every attempt, sometimes in dramatic fashion.

Midway through the first half Grow had to make an acrobatic, diving save to keep the ball out of the net and a few minutes later he gave Luke Frieberg no angle, forcing the sophomore defender's shot from inside the six-yard box to hit the outside netting.

Grow's game-changing saves got a rise out of the 654 fans in attendance and left his teammates in awe, said senior defender Nathan Sabich, but his coach expects him to make those saves.

"He made the two saves, which was good," said head coach Steve Adlard. "My take on goalkeepers is that they're supposed to make those saves. … I say that's doing your job well."

Adlard was not shocked by Friday's match because he works with Grow and his other two goalies, sophomore Andy Kroll and freshman Erik Schuett, on close-range shots often in practice.

But it's not that simple. No matter how long or hard he works in training sessions, Grow would not be 2-0 on the season with a pair of shutouts without his natural athleticism and innate ability to anticipate how the game is going to develop.

"The main thing I think about is where are they going to shoot, how's their body language, how are they set up," Grow said.

"Jesse Baker had a point-blank shot but it's easily readable. You make a save and the crowd woos, but it's routine. The older I get, and the more I mature as a footballer. Those saves that look spectacular are just routine and easy."

This article was published in The Marquette Tribune on September 13, 2005.