In this season alone, goalkeeper Paul McHenry is leading the Big East in goals against average and is helping the Pirates defeat top teams in the nation.
However, he is entering the final month of his collegiate career, a goalie career that might never have even happened.
McHenry played as an attacker in the striker position his junior and senior year at Ephrata Senior High School in Ephrata, Pa.
“In my freshman and sophomore year of high school I played goalie,” McHenry said. “But in my junior and senior year I played striker up top.”
After amassing 36 goals in his two year hiatus from defending the net, McHenry won his first three career starts for the Pirates as a freshman in 2006, along with earning the Big East Rookie of the Week in the beginning of September.
Head Coach Manny Schellscheidt believes that being a player in the field before becoming a goalkeeper gives McHenry a great advantage when playing between the posts.
“I always like having goalies who were players first,” Schellscheidt said. “He has a better understanding of what is going on in front of him and that’s always a big plus. His biggest strength is his ability to weed the game, organize his defense, and prevent things before he even has to make saves.”
So far this season, McHenry ranks first in the Big East with 5.8 saves per game average.
He has also posted two shutouts this year, one of them coming against No. 15 St. John’s.
“That was the best game I’ve played in yet and they were ranked No. 15 in the nation,” McHenry said. “We got a tie at their place and their fans were going crazy, it was just a really fun game.”
McHenry now has eight career shutouts and is seventh on the all-time Seton Hall list for career shutouts.
Earlier in the season, McHenry was named the Big East Goalkeeper of the Week and the ECAC Co-Defensive Player of the Week after recording a career-high 10 saves against Syracuse.
He was the first Pirate goalie to post 10 stops in a game since Boris Pardo in 2003 against Princeton.
As one of only four seniors on the team, McHenry’s duty goes beyond just making saves during games.
“It’s just the way he goes about things that becomes a good example,” Schellscheidt said. “It’s not what he says but what he does.”
On the field, McHenry may be loud when organizing or positioning his teammates, but off the field he would rather let his actions do the talking.
“I’m not much of a vocal leader,” McHenry said. “I don’t really give pump up speeches. I just lead by example, and put in a good effort every day. I try and keep the guys motivated.”
Junior goalkeeper Sean Carr says that he learns the most from McHenry simply from doing drills with him on their own.
“He’s always on time and always working hard,” Carr said.
Senior forward Marko Ciklic learns more by playing against McHenry.
“In one-on-one situations he cuts off the angles so well, and I think he’s the best goalie at doing that that I’ve ever played against,” Ciklic said. “It’s hard to finish on him.”
That may explain why McHenry has made 212 saves, tying for fourth place in school history, only 16 saves shy of third place.
Seton Hall has played in many close games this season and is looking to turn things around after losing three straight Big East matchups.
Whether imitating his hero, Italian national keeper Gianluigi Buffon, or helping out his teammates any way he can, McHenry is appreciated by his coach.
“Paul is a great person, coming from a great home and a family with great values,” Schellscheidt said. “He’s not only an asset to the university on the soccer end, but also as a student and as an all-around individual.”
Matthew Bryant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.