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Keeper Primus leading in the Cage

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By Troy Farkas

Staff Writer

sports.asp@gmail.com

September 22, 2015

Photo by Aaron Cheris/Albany Student Press. Goalkeeper Maxi Primus has been strong for UAlbany all season. She recently celebrated her 21st birthday with a win over Bucknell.
Photo by Aaron Cheris/Albany Student Press. Goalkeeper Maxi Primus has been strong for UAlbany all season. She recently celebrated her 21st birthday with a win over Bucknell.

Growing up playing field hockey in Berlin, Germany, Maxi Primus didn’t play goalie.

It wasn’t until some coaches in her homeland got together and decided Primus’s fearless playing style would make her a fine goalkeeper one day that she took up the position.

 Now, Primus is the junior starting goalkeeper for the University at Albany team, currently ranked fifth in the nation.

In 2014, Primus became the first Great Dane field hockey player to ever earn All-American honors when she was selected to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) All-American Third Team. Primus also earned the award for best goalkeeper in the America East after helping the Danes defy the odds to make it all the way to the Final Four before a loss to the University of Connecticut.

 Primus made her way to UAlbany via her club team. High schools in Germany do not have field hockey teams, so coaches from around the world recruit German players based on their performances with the club teams.

Primus, described as a, “very good get,” by head coach Phil Sykes, sent her videos to several schools in America but finally decided on UAlbany as the right place because of the coaching staff.

 Although Primus now excels at UAlbany both on and off the field, there was a time when, as a freshman, she struggled to adapt to her new life in a new country.

Despite loving the East Coast on a family trip to the United States seven years ago, Primus wasn’t so sure how long she would want to stay here to play field hockey.

 “I said to the coaches I was going to stay for four years,” Primus said. “I came here and Paula, because we’re in the same year, got a really close relationship and we talked a lot. I was like, ‘If she leaves, I’m going to leave.’”

Primus is, of course, referring to Paula Heuser, last year’s National Player of the Year, who also hails from Germany. Heuser originally had intended to stay for a season. After loving playing with the other members of the team, including Primus, Heuser decided to stay at UAlbany. That decision meant that Primus would stay also.

“The first half-year is hard. You’re so far away from home. Your English isn’t perfect. The food is different, it’s the whole atmosphere,” Primus said.

But the transition didn’t turn out to be as difficult as she had thought it would be.

With the help of Heuser, her new friend, the pair slowly adjusted together and learned the complexities of American life. Once they got more comfortable at school and with the team, the rest was history. Literally.

“You come here and you have 17 friends. The team integrates you. They just help you out with whatever they can,” Primus said.

And it’s that kind of team chemistry that has made UAlbany into a national field hockey powerhouse. Primus said she loves how the team plays for one another on a daily basis. While Primus said she loves being a part of such a fun team, especially on the road trips, she said she and the team still have some unfinished business to take care of.

 “We definitely have potential to make it back [to the Final Four],” Primus said, recalling two games played this month. “We definitely kept on the same level as North Carolina, and we beat Maryland.”

With the Danes on the quest to win the America East outright and return to the Final Four, Sykes said he knows Primus has to continue playing at a high level for the Danes to reach that goal.

“It starts with your defense, in particular your goalie,” Sykes said.  “She wants to play against the best teams. She’s got a nice chip on her shoulder, and she uses it to her advantage. The tougher the team, the more she likes it.”

Even though Primus has racked up several awards and honors in career so far at UAlbany, her starting spot is not a lock.

Both Primus and Sykes rave about the skill and work ethic of freshman goalkeeper Melissa Nealon, a Capital Region product from Shenendehowa High School. Nealon provides Primus with competition every day and makes sure Primus isn’t too comfortable with her starting position because it could be taken from her at any time if Nealon outworks her. 

“In the past, we haven’t always had somebody behind her to challenger her,” Sykes said. “The backup keeps her on her toes and keeps her focused.”

But with that fiery attitude and aggressiveness that once convinced her German coaches to move her to goalie, Primus will continue to fight for the privilege to play for this team until the day she graduates. But before she does that, she wants to leave behind more of a legacy than she already has.

“[I want to be] the best goalkeeper UAlbany field hockey has had so far,” she said.

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