Into his own
Friday, June 6, 2014
Mac Martin was just getting ready to start his junior year of lacrosse at Merrimack High School when coach Brian Miller had to talk to him about something.
Last spring, the first-year head coach of the Tomahawks had asked the players to vote on captains before the season started, and when they picked Martin as one of two captains, it came as a bit of a surprise to the junior.
“I don’t think he saw that coming,” Miller said. “His peers saw that leadership in him, but he was kind of shocked when we told him. That was a challenge for him. Being a junior captain is a rare thing. He was still quiet. He’s more of a lead-by- example type guy.”
Now, near the end of his senior year, Martin has grown into a captain that players can not only come to for one-on-one help, but he’s become someone they turn to in moments of adversity to lead them in the right direction.
Martin has helped Merrimack (8-8) do that this season, as the Tomahawks will play a postseason lacrosse game Thursday for the first time in since 2006 when they head to Goffstown for a Division II quarterfinal game.
It’s a step that the Tomahawks have had as their top goal since Miller came on board, and Martin hopes it will propel Merrimack lacrosse as it expects to make the move to Division I next season.
“Hopefully, we can make it deep and open the door for Merrimack lacrosse,” Martin said. “Going D-I next year is a big step forward.”
This year’s playoffs run began for Martin a year ago, when the Tomahawks came up just short of getting into the postseason.
“Last year, we had moments where we took good teams and we fought with them,” Martin said. “When it hit us that we didn’t make the playoffs, because we were in it until the last day it seemed like, we could have been the eighth seed and we lost it.
“We came back and had the same group of guys, mostly, and the same coaching staff, and it made us think what we did last year, we could take a step forward and be a strong team.”
One player the team did lose was fellow captain Jake Howe, who served as the vocal leader on last year’s team. With Howe gone, it was now Martin’s turn to step into that role.
“I think he was really nervous as a junior,” Miller said of Martin. “Jake Howe is the kind of kid who will be loud and proud and he’s out there. Polar opposite from Mac, but it was kind of a perfect set up.
“(Martin) has now blossomed into an all-around, great kid, great leader. The kids really look to him for a little bit of everything.”
This season, that has meant being a bit of a coach on the field, whether it’s helping teammates make adjustments, or sharing with the coaching staff the pulse of the team. It’s also meant playing in different spots, as a few mid-season injuries forced Martin to take on different roles as a player.
Moving Martin, who plans on playing at Nichols College next year, around on the field was not something Miller ever worried about.
“He’s a versatile guy,” the coach said. “He could play defense and he’d probably be one of the best players on the field. He loves lacrosse, he loves being around it, and he’s just successful at everything because he works so hard.”
Hard enough that despite not scoring a lot as a freshman or sophomore, Martin is in the top five on Merrimack’s all-time point list. According to Miller, a lot of those points have come off assists as much as they have goals.
“It feels good,” Martin said. “Last year was like my year to step in and become a leader on and off the field. This year, everyone is looking toward me. They’re giving me more freedom to attack and create plays for everyone else. Knowing the team is behind me like that, they’re thinking what I’m thinking.”