National team goalie leads Wolverines

Chronicle Staff

By halftime, Crespi’s hopes of an upset were dropping as fast as the temperature on that early Halloween evening. It was clear that the small Crespi team was overmatched. Just eight seconds before halftime, Brian Pingree ’07 let up the first goal. Up 8-1, backup keeper Max Lubin ’08 came in for the third quarter. Pingree was done for the day.

But as the crowd chanted ‘Pingree’ before the fourth quarter, he returned to the pool as a position player.  A clear fan favorite, the spectators rose when he got the ball, urging him to shoot, and groaned when he passed on easy shots. When he left with five minutes left in the game, the  relative silence betrayed a disappointment of the crowd.

When he slipped back in with 12 seconds left and slid through the defense, the fans came to life. As the clock ticked down, the ball arced across the length of the pool into his hands. Pingree calmly squared up against a Crespi defender and fired the ball toward the back right corner off the net, getting by the keeper and up against the twine. The horn sounded and Pingree left another indelible mark on a game.

Despite his buzzer beater, Pingree isn’t known for his scoring but for his goaltending. Pingree has emerged as a leader for the fourth-ranked Wolverines, as well as one of the premier high school goalies in the United States.

“Pingree is a great goalie,” Lubin said. “He’s well-rounded, the heart of the defense and a huge asset to the team.”

After transferring to Harvard-Westlake in ninth grade from Calvary Christian in the Pacific Palisades, he began to play on the school team. Pingree has also survived the summer-long tryout and now is one of only 14 pleyers on the youth national team.

“He has our back,” driver Corey Schwartz ’07 said. “I think he’s probably the best goalie in the nation.”

Head Coach Larry Felix thinks that playing on the national team has really raised Pingree’s game to a new level.

“It’s a different world [against international competition],” he said. “You’re playing against kids your own age who’ve been playing in the club system and even professionally. It’s faster-paced. I’m watching the field players, and I’ll see something and think, ‘this isn’t good,’ but Brian’s also caught it and is there to bail them out.”

The amount of practice and training time has set Pingree apart from other goalies. In addition to the hours he puts in for school and club, he has national team practice during the summer.

“Brian is a student of the game,” Felix said. “He always wants to watch film of the best goalies in the world and see what they’re doing. [The game] is his passion. You don’t spend as much time watching tape and doing the stuff he does just to be average.”

Pingree first made a name for himself in the 2004 S&R cup. It was then, Felix said, that he realized that Pingree would be able to go as far as he wanted to go. Pingree said Former Head Coach Rich Corso, who now coaches at the University of California, Berkeley, was the biggest influence in helping him get there.

“He was a really knowledgeable coach,” Pingree said. “Having coached at the Olympic level, he could pass lots of information onto you as a player.”

This year, Pingree is playing at an elite level. Lubin called him “unstoppable” during the team’s 6-3 win in the 2006 S&R cup finals. In two tense rivalry games against Loyola, Pingree helped the team pull out one goal wins despite weaker playing from field players.
In games like these, Pingree is aware of the higher pressure but feeds off it.

“It’s a lot of stress,” he said. “[As a goalie], If you screw up, then the other team scores, but if another player screws up, then maybe nothing happens. It’s a lot of responsibility. It just makes you want to train harder do your best.”