‘Welcome to G-Mart’: IR lacrosse 5-1 behind freshman phenom Martin
Last season, in Indian River High School’s first year of varsity lacrosse, they relied heavily on the athleticism of their upperclassmen to carry the team. This year, not only are those veteran athletes becoming more polished lacrosse players, but they’ve added two freshmen with considerable lacrosse experience to the mix, in midfielder George Martin and goalie Hayden McWilliams.
While Martin has continued to develop as one of the team’s primary ball-handlers due to his more seasoned stick skills, his breakout performance came in last Tuesday’s 17-4 win at rival Sussex Central. The standout freshman racked up a team-high six goals in that matchup to go along with his two assists, bringing his points total to 22 (15 goals, seven assists) through six games so far this season.
“At first, it’s a little over whelming,” said Martin about being in an impact role as a freshman. “But all the senior guys really welcomed me into the team — it’s really been a good transition.”
Despite Martin’s impressive performance against the Golden Knights, it was the team’s other primary ball-handler, senior midfielder Merrick Kovatch, who lead the Indians in points with 11 — notching three goals and a staggering eight assists to tie with Martin for points on the year with 22, as well (11 goals, 11 assists). Notably, senior attackman Spencer Murray put up five goals of his own in the matchup.
The win at Central gives the Indians a 5-1 start and control of the Henlopen South conference — a half-game in front of Delmar (4-1), whom they faced off against on Wednesday, April 16 (after Coastal Point press time). No matter the outcome, both teams will play again on Thursday, May 15 — in a game that could, if the season’s start is any indicator, very well end up determining the 2014 Henlopen South champion.
“We’re definitely confident. We think that, as long as we play to our potential, we’ll have the game,” Martin explained of the team’s mindset heading into the matchup. “If we don’t play to our potential, then they’re going to beat us, and that’s the way it’s gonna be.”
In the team’s Friday, April 11, win against non-conference Smyrna, they were equally as dominant through the majority of the game, but the Eagles managed to put together a fourth-quarter scoring run before the Indians’ defense finally put a stop to it.
McWilliams set the tone early in that game, making a key save after Smyrna won the opening faceoff and darted down the field for a quick shot.
“For Hayden to step in and not even skip a beat — just step right into that role — was amazing,” said assistant coach John Jaskewich on the freshman’s performance so far this season. “Coach Shawn [McDowell] has done an amazing job pulling him into the type of lacrosse that we like to play.”
“They came out and they were ultra-aggressive,” assistant coach Jerry Sheridan added. “[They] caused some turnovers, some fast break opportunities — we were trying our best to make sure that we contained our defensive pressure, but they got off some good shots.”
Senior attackman Jackson Jorss got the Indians on the board first, scoring off the assist from senior midfielder Ben Gonski, but the Eagles answered the call to tie the game at one.
Indian River started to pull away when Kovatch found senior attackman Jake Troublefield on the door step for a quick score, with Troublefield picking up a loose ball in front of the net a few minutes later and scoring again, unassisted that time, to take the 4-1 lead.
After burning Smyrna middies on clears multiple times in the first half, senior midfielder Tim Roberts finally capitalized on one of them, ripping a shot from up top to make it 5-1 before the end of the first half.
“The athleticism that we have really does help us when its crunch time,” said Sheridan of some of the senior players making substantial contributions despite their relative lack of experience in the sport. “Somebody like Tim Roberts, who can clear the ball from end to end, is really helpful. Somebody as tough as Jake Troublefield, being the three- and four-sports athlete, does a lot for us.”
In only his second year playing and only third game on attack, Troublefield lead the team in goals with three against Smyrna, making him one of the team’s leading scorers on the season so far. Last year, Troublefield primarily played midfield, as a faceoff specialist, not seeing much time on the field.
“I was on the bench a lot — I’m not used to that,” the multiple-sport star and infamously hard worker explained of the reason for the position change. “I figured I’d try and bust my butt, trying to get a spot on attack. [A] senior graduated last year. There was an open spot, and I was trying to get it, and here I am today.”
According to Troublefield, working hard in practice and being able to play alongside his teammates, many of whom he’s played football with for years, has been instrumental in his rapid progression as a lacrosse player.
“Last year, that ball probably would have sailed way over the field goal post,” he joked about his last goal in the Smyrna game. “I’ve been taking my time, not getting so anxious — a lot of that is just getting used to it.”
During spring break, “the Tribe” will begin a three-game home stretch on Friday, April 25, when they face off against Red Lion (0-5) at noon. They’ll then host Worcester Prep on Monday, April 28, before taking on Milford (6-2) on Wednesday, April 30, in a critical Henlopen South matchup. The Bucs handed the Indians their only loss so far in the season, in a game decided by just one goal.