The Lone Goalie
By: Mackenzie Porter
A few weeks ago I posted a mini version of my story on lax goalie rats. My post attracted a lot of attention! This is
why Brad, owner of “Goalies Matter” asked me to dive deeper into how I dealt with the mental aspect of my game. For those of you who don’t know me. My name is Mackenzie Porter and I am the only goalie for Missouri Western State University. I am currently a 5th-year student-athlete with one more year of eligibility. To truly understand my journey with lacrosse, I would like to take you all back to the beginning. I was pulled up to my varsity team when I was in 7th grade as the starting goalie. Being a 12-year-old playing against 15-17 years olds was very, very, intimidating. As you can probably already imagine mentally, I struggled. I wish I was exaggerating when I say I cried every time a goal was scored on me, but I’m not. What helped me start to overcome this was remembering goals are meant to be scored, goals are going to happen. As time went on, I began feeling more confident. As my confidence grew, my mental game grew stronger. I finished my high school career as a 6-year starter, 2x All-American, 4x All Section, 5x All-League, 870 career saves, and lastly NYS 2020 goalkeeper of the decade. I really thought I had finally overcome my mental struggles with the game and being a goalie. As I moved onto the college level, I went in with so much excitement ready to continue to grow my game. I committed to play Division 1 lacrosse for Rutgers University. Coming in as a freshman, I played under two amazing goalkeepers! Senior goalie at the time Devon Kearns, and sophomore Kam Halshall; she is now the goalkeeper for team Canada! I learned so much from both of these individuals. But, with that being said I felt my game was lacking and I wasn’t playing 100% to my strengths and my ability. The following year we had gotten all new coaches and I now was the oldest goalkeeper on the team, due to Devon graduating and Kam transferring. That year I was ready to find my spark again and show the college lacrosse world who I was. However, unfortunately, my love for the game started to slowly weaken. The style of play from a goalie my coaches were expecting, was not mine. There is nothing wrong with this however, again my mental game began to struggle as I tried conforming to the style that they wanted me to play. This caused me to come up with fewer saves in practice, which then led me to be a second-string goalie. This is the price we pay as a goalie. Due to this high expectation, my confidence and mental health started to plummet. I was tired of feeling this way and in 2020, I decided to enter the transfer portal. I had no idea where I was going to end up, but what I did know is I was going to leave it in God’s hands. I wanted to go where the coach wanted me for my style of play; which is very aggressive. I play not only the goalie, but I like to be an 8th defender. Shortly after entering the portal, Missouri Western was one of the first schools to reach out to me. At the time, Missouri Western hadn’t even had its inaugural season yet. I also received a lot of interest from the University of Indianapolis, which is a prominent program in the D2 lacrosse world as well as several D1 schools. In speaking with my parents through this time, something kept leading me back to Missouri Western State. The exciting feelings I had and the worth I felt from Coach Rachel Benzing, started to ignite a fire in me. I had a great opportunity in front of me to be a part of something special. Building a team and a program up from the very beginning was exciting to me. This appealed to me more so than going to an already established program. After talking to several schools, I decided to take my game to Missouri Western and be a part of history at this University. By making this decision, I had to prepare myself mentally. Missouri Western is in a very competitive conference, the GLVC. I had to prepare myself for the number of shots I was going to see. I had to prepare myself for success not coming right away, and working hard to become a great competitive team. Years one and two flew by and we definitely started to show people who Missouri Western is! We had few individual conference awards given to our players, including myself. Coming into fall ball 2022, I was told that I would be the only goalie. Most people when they hear this think “Oh that’s awesome you already know you are going to play every single game every single minute.” But what people don’t know is how mentally challenging it is! already being a goalie is a huge mental game in itself. But, being the only goalie on top of that has made that mental aspect even more challenging. This season has been full of ups and downs and let me tell you there has been plenty of tears! When my coach informed me of this news, I was scared but my response was “There is no hurdle I can’t get over.” My biggest takeaway from this season is to always remember to have fun and at the end of the day it’s just a game and I play this game because I love it. The most fun I had during the season was at our very last in-season game vs. #5 Indianapolis. Going into a game where you are playing the reigning Division 2 champs can be scary and I could have folded. However, instead of crying after the score I danced to their goal songs, because why not! Always keep your energy high, and don’t sweat a few goals if it goes in, it goes in. This season I hit the milestone, my 400th career save. As well as being named 2nd team all-conference for the 3rd year in a row. This would have never been possible without my coaches, and my teammates for constantly having my back and making sure my confidence stays high. My coach Jessica Berg introduced me to a very knowledgeable coach! Danny Cisneros has helped me fine-tune my game this season and helped me, most importantly, with my mental game. Every practice and every game is a learning experience and I am beyond blessed that I have another year to continue to grow! This year has pushed me in a lot of ways and challenged me in all areas of my life. What I’m most grateful for from this year was that I reconnected with my faith. My perspective on life changed and was living and playing for something greater than myself which I’d never done before. As a young girl church was always in the picture for me, but as I grew up and lacrosse consumed my life, tournaments and practices were the biggest priority and my faith slowly fell out of the picture. My only focus was becoming the best goalie. This meant a lot of sacrifices and constantly putting in the work I needed in order to be great. What I didn’t realize was that I was putting my identity into the sport. I found it as my source of fulfillment, joy, peace, confidence, and worth. I didn’t realize this was killing me mentally, and if I’m being honest a reason I started hating the game. This never came to light for me until this year being handed the role of the only goalie on our team. This meant it was ONLY ME. I had to perform, there was no one else to step up. I was scared, but I was ready. It was hard, and some days were harder than others. I had an amazing team who was always there to support me, but it felt lonely because no matter how hard they would try to understand they couldn’t understand the pressure I felt. One weekend in the fall was really hard for me and one of my teammates spent a good amount of time sitting and talking to me about my faith and invited me to church with her. She helped guide me back on a path that I had closed off. She guided me back to the Lord and reconnected me with my faith. As my relationship with God began to grow, I saw a change in my life and my outlook on everything. My worth wasn’t in lacrosse, it was being the best Christian I can be and doing everything to glorify Him. I fell back in love with the sport and I truly feel that I am the best person and player I can be because of my faith. My story as you can see has been full of lows and highs. However, with that being said I would never change it! I am blessed to have these memories and be able to share them with all of you, and hopefully help any young goalies that may be struggling with their mental game right now. I would love to sit here and say it gets easier and stays easy. But you will have good days and bad days. You will notice this in every aspect of your life. But how we overcome those bad days will only help grow us not only as goalkeepers, and lacrosse players, but as individuals. Lastly, always remember to have FUN!