Dan Hicks's '11 first game in net for the men's soccer team was a memorable one. Now, a junior, he recalls that game during his first year as his favorite moment; however, Hicks and his teammates also distinctly remember this game for a certain rookie mistake he made. After a save, Hicks picked up the ball and placed it on the ground to kick it when he looked up and saw a Tufts forwards a mere 10 feet away.
Reacting quickly, Hicks picked up the ball again, a handball offense, which, as he describes, is "blatantly against the rules." He credits a former senior captain for redeeming him with a heroic defensive play on the free kick and recalls that game as the first time he saw how the team could come together and laugh about such incidents.
That's certainly one way for a new polar bear to break the ice.
Two years later, Hicks has outgrown those rookie errors and assumed a leadership role on the team. The six-foot-four goalkeeper from New York City is a standout not only at Bowdoin but also throughout the NESCAC, and he makes it look easy.
"Dan has incredible reflexes and co-ordination. The ball seems to stick to his hands," said co-captain Tom Wakefield '10.
In 663 minutes of play, Hicks has allowed only four goals and posted four shutouts already this season. How does he do it? His teammates and coaches think he's a natural with the perfect disposition for a goalie.
Co-captain Matthew Ostrup '10, pointed to Dan's attitude and calm demeanor as his keys to success, stating that "even in pressure situations or after a mistake, he maintains his focus."
Ostrup also recalled the Tufts incident of '07 as the first time Hicks displayed his mental toughness and perpetual focus.
Head Coach Fran O'Leary also praised Hicks's collected nature and said he has seen impressive development in Hicks as a player over the years.
"The biggest jump we've seen has been in his ability to organize our back four which has manifested itself in his shutouts this year."
Dan agreed, saying that with Coach O'Leary's help, he's taken more responsibility for his role as a leader on the field.
"I think as a goalkeeper. The way I approach the game affects everyone else," said Hicks. "I've realized that I'm in a position of leadership and embraced that much more so this year."
Mark Landa '13 added that "Dan's jovial and comical mood keeps the team's spirits high and his leadership extends beyond the field and into the Bowdoin community."
Instead of basking in his previous successes, however, Dan is only looking toward the future; the most exciting game of his career, he says, will be October 17 against Williams.
"Hopefully he'll continue to pile up the 'clean sheets' and be viewed as the top goalkeeper in the NESCAC," said O'Leary. "He's just a terrific lad and we're happy to have him behind our back four instead of facing him every week. And that's a sign of a good goalkeeper."