WALES — Matty Martin is always looking for a new challenge, which is part of the reason the four-year Oak Hill starting goaltender was drawn to the position in the first place. 

Before he proved to be the Raiders’ staple between the pipes, Martin’s lacrosse career began as an attack in seventh grade. But when he realized the position might not be for him, he looked for a new challenge.

“It all started back in eighth grade,” Martin said. “We really needed a goalie really, really bad. Attack wasn’t my thing. At the time I wasn’t doing very good at it, so I was like, ‘I’ll give it a shot.’ Eighth-grade year I started playing it, got used to the pain, got used to leading a team. It was just a good opportunity for me in the end.” 

So Martin went from delivering pain to opposing goaltenders, to being on the receiving end of lacrosse balls coming anywhere from 70 to 90 miles per hour at his head, shoulders, chest and thighs. 

Despite facing countless shots at the varsity level, whether it’s in practice or in games, Martin said you never do fully get used to the physical pain that comes with the position. 

“I don’t know if I really have, actually,” Martin said. “There’s some spots — the thighs, a good line drive right in the chin — they sting, but I’ve taken a lot of them over the years and I think my body had gotten used to it.” 

Even with all the bumps and bruises, Martin has missed just two games during his four-year varsity career.

And they had nothing to do with injury.

Martin was out of the lineup for the first two games this season due to a family vacation that had been planned for nearly a year. Other than that, Martin has always been in the lineup. 

Game after game, Martin is looking to perfect his craft, something Oak Hill coach Daniel Brannigan likes to see in his defensive captain. 

“He always wants to do a new drill,” Brannigan said. “He always wants to see a new shot. He always wants to do something new. We tried the tennis balls in practice. We tried the whiffle balls and he always wants the real ball. He wants the action. Our coach shoots 80-90 mph and he’s taking 20, 50, 100 shots, whatever it is, in practice every single practice.”

Martin has all the physical attributes to be a good goaltender: quick reflexes, soft hands, good vision and conditioning. According to Marin, the area in which he’s seen the most improvement is the mental side of being a goaltender. 

“I’ve learned the goalie position is very mental, not so much skill,” Martin said. “Yes, you need it, but you have to know that when you let a ball in, you have to forget about it. The past few years I have gotten better at it. I remember when I was a freshman it was rough. Every time I let a goal in I’d hit the shaft of my stick on the goal post. I was an angry goalie, I guess.” 

You don’t see that anger anymore, whether he lets in a season-low five goals against Erskine Academy, or he surrenders a season-high 17 goals, like he did in his most recent outing against Maranacook/Winthrop. Now, as a senior, he puts each goal behind him and focuses on stopping the next shot he sees, which is tends to do. 

Another thing you won’t hear from Martin after allowing a goal is deflecting blame. Regardless of who’s to blame, Martin always takes responsibility when an opposing team scores. It doesn’t matter if it’s his fault or not. 

“The kids just never quits,” Brannigan said. “Never gives up. Never talks bad to his team. He takes the blame for everything. He’s exactly what you want in a goalie. Exactly what you want at the back of your defense.” 

Said Martin: “I just feel like I’m there for my team. I need to help them out. When I don’t make the save, or make a bad outlet pass, I blame myself because in the end I do believe it’s my fault. It’s not my defense’s fault.” 

Aside from the mental aspect, Brannigan said he’s seen drastic improvement in Martin’s game since his first start as a freshman four years ago. He’s taken command of the defense and isn’t afraid to give out directions during games. 

“He’s much more of a field general,” Brannigan said. “He could still step it up a little bit, but he’s much better as a field general. He’s much better at telling people where they need to be and what they need to do.” 

Perhaps Martin’s greatest attribute is his ability to listen and take constructive criticism, Brannigan said. When college coaches and friends of Brannigan stop by practice and give Martin a few pointers, the senior goaltender listens. 

“As far as coaching, he’s one of the most coachable kids I’ve ever had,” Brannigan said. “He listens to everything. We were lucky enough to have a few surprise guests — other coaches of colleges that stopped by that are friends of mine — and he takes just the littlest things they say like ‘Don’t step so far’ or ‘Don’t drop your hands so much’ and next thing you know, the next save he’s doing exactly what they said. It’s incredible how he can take one quick thing and instantly put it to work.” 

Throughout his four-year career with the Raiders, Martin is thankful for all the opportunities his coach has given him. 

“These past four years have been really fun under Coach Brannigan,” Martin said. “I’ve learned a lot under him. He’s got me opportunities to succeed past high school, opportunities to meet college coaches. He’s got my back, I’ve got his back and that’s how it’s been.”

Those opportunities have given Martin the chance to play lacrosse in college. He will play at Division III Husson University next year for coach Marsh Gray, who just completed his second year at the helm. The Eagles finished the 2015 season 9-7 and reached the North Atlantic Conference semifinals. Martin will join Andrew Tarr and Lewiston High School’s Tom Lepage, who both will be juniors next season. 

“I’m very excited to play college ball up there,” Martin said. “I feel like I’m going to adapt very well. I feel like I can adapt to the faster shots, the quicker ball movement and stuff like that.” 

Martin still has three regular season games left in his high school career before the playoffs. The Raiders are currently seeded sixth in Eastern Class B.

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