GORHAM – Lacrosse wasn’t always Carter Landry’s thing.
That might be weird, considering he’s just earned himself All-American honors in the sport, and in the fall will join the Widener University team.
“Hockey was always my big sport throughout middle school, and some of high school,” says Landry, a newly minted Gorham graduate. (Actually, Landry remained a standout on the rink through his senior year, so he’s perhaps downplaying his talents there.)
He first found his way onto the lacrosse field when his family moved to Gorham, in his seventh-grade year. “I was new, so lacrosse and hockey were sort of my way of acclimating to the area,” he says.
He soon became fast friends with a couple guys – Cam Wright and Alex York, names familiar to these pages – with whom he remains close even now. Together, the trio pushed their lacrosse squad to impressive heights. “Our team for my two years was filthy,” Landry says. “We only lost two or three games, and all of us were very tight. It was definitely fun. That’s where I sort of fell in love with the sport.”
But Landry started his lax career at midfield; netminding was completely foreign to him at first. So how’d he end up in the cage?
“At the end of my eighth-grade year, we had a tournament,” he says, “and our goalie was missing for a game, so I said, ‘Hell, I’ll play.’ I played very well. I didn’t know much about the position, but it was fun; I relied mainly on hand-speed I’d learned from hockey.”
And of course, it’s not a long leap from eighth-grade goalie to high school goalie. Dan Soule, head coach at GHS, heard tell of Landry’s skill. Soule baited a hook and cast a line in the water. “Coach Soule needed a replacement for his senior goalie,” Landry says. “He and the captains pushed me very hard to play. At the time, I wasn’t sure about playing; I was focused on hockey, and thought I had a future there.”
Soule convinced Landry to attend a lacrosse came at Bowdoin that summer. There, Landry recieved his introduction to the real rigors of the net. “That was my first taste of the position, facing shots from very elite high school players,” he says. “I gained some skill and confidence at this camp – but still wasn’t hooked.”
“Carter wasn’t a great player, coming into high school, but he was a strong athlete,” Soule says. “And his freshman year, he was not enthusiastic about playing goalie. He was a hockey kid that was fully invested in hockey. The challenge for my coaching staff and I was selling him on the fact that he had the raw ability and potential to be one of the best goalies in the State – if he committed to the game and put in the work required to develop his skillset.”
In the end, it took a Captain – Gorham fans will no doubt remember Mike Susi – to reel Landry in. Things didn’t exactly go smoothly at first, however. “Mike got me to play,” Landry says, “and I was thrown into high school lacrosse with very little knowledge. I had a decent preseason, but wasn’t the starter day one. This killed me. All my friends – Cam, Alex and Mat (Anderson, defensive standout) – were getting a lot of varsity time.”
“At 2:30, when Carter showed up for the first day of preseason,” Soule says, “he was holding a short stick. When we started warm-ups, he was getting after it with a backup goalie stick. For a freshman’s first day of high school preseason, it is overwhelming. Then, to be forced to play a new position, it added to the stress. He was unsure because it was new to him.”
Landry buckled down in practice, and earned himself a start in the team’s second game of the season, against Cheverus. The Rams lost that bout badly – but Landry didn’t lose his spot between the pipes.
“He had a horrible game,” Soule says of the Landry in the Cheverus matchup, which Soule specifically selected as a trial-by-fire for his new keeper. “Not due to inability, but inexperience, and inexperience in his supporting cast: one senior; one new player, Mat; and our third defenseman was a first-year player alternating with another freshman, Ryan Hamblen. But starting Carter versus a tough opponent also gave us coaches the opportunity to see how he manages adversity, and his leadership skills.”
“From there,” Soule says, “Carter consistently gained confidence (through) his will to learn and develop his fundamentals in practice, as well as his commitment off the field.”
“Coach Soule kept me in,” Landry says, “and I made huge strides as the season went along. I started every game from there on out. We ended up losing to SoPo in the playoffs and I had 18 saves. It was my first time being in the media.”
Landry buckled down again in the off-season – and produced when the team reconvened in his sophomore year. “I spent a lot of time having Cam and Alex shoot on me without any control. I never really had anyone to coach me; just, more shots, the better I got.” Landry picked up his first All-Conference laurels that season – and yet, he still figured his future lay with hockey.
“Cam convinced me to play in a tournament in Yale going into junior year,” Landry says. “A few college coaches saw me and reached out…Going into junior year I realized that college hockey was a stretch, but lacrosse coaches had interest. I started reaching out and got in contact with Widener. They were able to give me free tuition through tuition exchange, and I really enjoyed the campus when I visited.”
“I’m very happy with where I landed,” Landry says. “Great school and great people, and in a highly competitive league.”
“When I took over as head coach in September,” says Jamie Lockard, now in the driver’s seat at Widener, “Carter had reached out to me to express his interest in the University. He had been far along in the process with the previous coach and it was getting late in the timeline so both parties had to make some decisions.”
“I felt that Carter has the ability to potentially challenge for the starting spot as freshman,” Lockard says, “so my last step was to call Coach Soule and talk about Carter as a player and a person. Coach Soule raved about his character and the type of kid he was. At that point, it became an easy call for me. I’ve never believed in over-recruiting; I just think if someone can help you win and is going to do everything the right way – on the field, off the field and in the classroom – you bring them on. Carter checked all those boxes.”
What makes a great goalie? From Landry’s perspective, a certain natural prowess helps. “I think, early on, I was never afraid of the ball, and I was quick and athletic,” he says. “Over time, the more and more shots I saw, I learned the steps and the technique needed to be a goalie.”
“Carter makes a lot of saves that a lot of goalies have a difficult time making,” Soule says. “He sacrifices his body without hesitation and makes saves with any part of his body he can connect to the ball. In four years, he developed into a more fundamental player, and increased his communication skills as well as his clearing skills, which are all-important positional responsibilities.”
“Mentally, Carter stays balanced,” Soule says. “Lacrosse can be a game of momentum, and scoring can happen real fast in bunches – which can weigh on teams, and especially on the psyche of the man in between the pipes. Combining his ability refocus and reset for the next shot, his athleticism and his game IQ, he has all of the things you would want in a defensive leader and goalkeeper.”
Soule heaps praise on Landry’s contributions, these past several seasons: “He has been the rock of the defense and the team,” Soule says. “He has had multiple 20-plus-save games over each of the past four years, most recently in our quarterfinal loss to Scarborough, where he had a great game and 22 saves. We would be a much different team without him in goal. When he is on, we are on. We have been successful over the past two seasons for many reasons, but Carter has been an important and critical part of our success.”
“My favorite part of Carter’s game is his athleticism,” says Lockard. “I think a big misconception is that goalies don’t have to be athletic to play the position, but Carter debunks that theory. Carter is as dangerous in the cage as he in out of it.
“He has a great stick,” Lockard says. “He can win end-lines and groundballs, and so essentially acts as a seventh defender. We like to play fast and run the field, so he fits right into that. And, as proven in past performances, he has the ability to steal a game. As a staff, we have studied his video, as we do with all our incoming recruits, and talked about a few technical things we can do with him, but he is very close to college-ready.”
Landry turned in a .67 save percentage last season, and a .71 this season. Those are outstanding numbers in lacrosse, a sport in which a goalie, facing a shooter one-on-one, is almost expected to lose the duel. He earned SMAA First-Team honors in 2016 and 2017, a spot in the Underclassmen Showcase last year, and SMAA Player of the Year and a spot in the Senior All-Star game this year.
All-American status isn’t just handed out, of course. Coaches have to nominate their players, and then defend their choices to one another at a meeting. Finally, they vote. Only eight Maine boys earned the title this year –the Thoreck twins and Ben Ekedahl at Cape Elizabeth, Sam Neugebauer at Scarborough, Christian Glover at Brunswick, and Brendan Hickey and Jack Scribner at Falmouth – placing Landry in very elite company.
“Carter is a complete player in goal,” Soule says, “and has been outstanding against the top programs…Other coaches see Carter’s ability and respect his level of play as one of the best goalies in the State.”
“It definitely feels special to be an All-American,” Landry says. “I set very high goals for myself junior year, and I was upset that I didn’t get it then, so I was very happy when I got it this year. The goalie position is much less competitive than the shot-stick positions, so I knew my competition and just worked to be better than them. In the end, it’s very cool to have that title and I couldn’t have done it with coach Soule and my friends pushing me.”
Landry has high aspirations for day one at Widener, too. “Next year, the goal is obviously to start,” he says. “That will be a tough feat; the kid above me is an All-American, so I have a lot of work to do – but like I said, I have to aim high.”
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME
Carter Landry tracks the action in his final game as a Ram, a narrow semifinals loss to Scarborough.
Carter Landry faces a shot in a road game vs. Freeport during his sophomore year.