The biggest downside to snow in March, according to Moorestown goalie Gene Martin, is the toll it takes on preseason reps.
“Defense,” he said, “is all about chemistry, and you can’t build chemistry if you can’t practice.”
In the early parts of the season, the Quakers on defense are more likely to be seen huddled on the field during stoppages, talking about what they see and where they should be.
Martin said a big part of his job is to ensure that chemistry exists and that the defense is talking.
“I like being able to control the field. I like being able to see everything,” Martin said. “It’s kind of like being a quarterback in football. You always have to make sure you’re backing up your defense.”
This year, Martin should take comfort in the fact that he’s the primary driver of that defensive chemistry — it’s his job to lose.
But that’s an aspect of his junior season that he shrugs off. “The one thing I know,” he said, “is that you really can’t take anything for granted.”
Martin entered this season as the clear-cut starter for the Quakers (8-2 through Wednesday) after serving last season as the primary backup to star goalie Liam Peck. Martin played in about half the games last year, including one postseason start, as Peck battled a lingering wrist injury.
Peck was an all-state player and the hero of the Group 3 state title game. He was a leader as Moorestown charted new territory, becoming the only area team ever to advance to the Tournament of Champions final.
Martin said Peck was a mentor to him. And even though Martin likely would have been a star on many other teams in South Jersey, he was happy with the experience he gained during such a memorable run.
“I learned a lot from that,” said Martin, a Cornell recruit. “It was great experience. And it helps coming into this season that I really know the defense. I’ve played with a lot of these guys.”
The attitude didn’t go unnoticed by coach Baron Walenhurst.
“He did great for us when he was in there, and when we took him out, he never complained, never said anything — just kept working hard,” Walenhurst said. “He’s one of those players that every coach wants to have on his team because, really, his sole focus is just to keep working and keep getting better.”
While the talent of last year’s Quakers team certainly had plenty to do with its unprecedented South Jersey success, the team will be remembered more for its attitude.
The players were gritty and close. The team had personality. And while the core graduated, Walenhurst is looking for players like Martin to carry on those intangibles.
“At any given point of last season, our team had a mentality that they were going to outwork teams on the field. They just refused to quit,” Walenhurst said. “Don’t get me wrong, we were talented, but it was that effort that they gave as a group that really pushed us along. You could see how it took certain players to a whole different level.
“I think we have the makings of that this season. And Gene is definitely one of those players we’re hoping can set that example.”
Most of the production Moorestown lost via graduation was on offense. The spotlight, then, shifts a bit more to an experienced defense. Moorestown’s returners on defense include Bobby Garrison — whom Walenhurst said was severely underrated last season — Will Conaty, and Will Eigenrauch. Martin, somewhat of a veteran himself, will be the unit’s anchor.
It’s a spotlight that doesn’t intimidate him, and is one for which he’s working hard to keep.
“It’s going to take an all-around team effort — and our defense is going to need every single guy working hard,” Martin said. “We have confidence in ourselves this year. And we know what we have to do.”