The senior goalie is the program's all-time leader in saves
Nick Raynor never intended to be a goalie.
The South Western senior began playing lacrosse in elementary school, and right from the beginning he loved being a goal-scorer. But when his eighth grade indoor team needed a goalie, Raynor was asked to fill in.
"I absolutely hated it," Raynor said. "I didn't like getting hit. But I had to do it for the next two games and kind of just stuck with it and got decent. Now here I am."
Five years later, Raynor is a three-year varsity starting goalie for the Mustangs and the program's all-time saves leader. He broke Sam Price's school record of 658 saves earlier in the season and is averaging "about a dozen" saves a game, according to South Western head coach Gary Hartsock.
While Raynor admits that part of him wishes he still played offense, he's come to embrace the leadership aspect of being a goalie.
"You're kind of like the quarterback of the team," he said. "You control almost everything on the field. You control what the defense does, and you're kind of like a leader on that side of the field and I like that aspect of it."
South Western's Nick Raynor talks about being a lacrosse goalie and what it takes to play the position. Matt Allibone
According to Raynor's teammates and coaches, his leadership is what sets him apart. An extremely vocal player, Raynor can be heard from the stands instructing teammates and directing them on where to be during games.
That quality is what Hartsock said he will miss most about Raynor when he graduates. Now in his fourth year as Mustangs' coach, Hartsock has relied on Raynor since Day 1 and said he has always been a vocal player.
"Even as a freshman he didn't shy away from coaching up his defense and giving his opinion on what he felt worked and didn't work," Hartsock said. "He's very insightful, he's very receptive and him and I have a very good rapport. Having a good goalie is like discovering gold, and having Nick is like having another coach on the field."
While Raynor enjoys being a goalie, it's been far from an easy position for him to play the past four years. Lacrosse is a high-scoring sport, and South Western has struggled during Raynor's tenure. The Mustangs went a combined 7-26 the last two seasons and are off to a 2-5 start in 2016.
Thursday's game against Spring Grove was a perfect example of how difficult Raynor's job can be. The senior was under pressure all game and faced 22 shots, ultimately saving seven in a 15-6 South Western loss.
According to Hartsock, Raynor has never complained about playing the position or called out his teammates when things have gone wrong. He added that the team's struggles should not be blamed on the goalie at all.
"It's not always the goalie's fault when we give up goals," Hartsock said. "My biggest regret the past four years is I wish I could have done a better job getting him more help. And he doesn't point fingers, he takes responsibility. That's what leaders do and I appreciate that."
An admittedly laid-back guy, Raynor said he's never gotten down on himself for giving up goals because he understands it's part of the game. And while he considers himself competitive and doesn't like to lose, he believes lacrosse is ultimately about having fun.
"Nobody likes to get scored on but you've got to get over it," Raynor said. "It's not all about the score, it's about having fun. Being competitive is fun, but at the end of the day it's just a game and we're out here doing what we love."
The senior will be attending West Virginia University next year, and is planning on trying out for the club lacrosse team. And who knows, maybe he'll get the chance to play on offense once again.
Either way, Raynor is content being in net for the Mustangs, where he knows he is most needed.
"Sometimes I do wish I played offense," Raynor said. "I don't think people here would be happy if I played another position. Goalie is what I'm best at and where they need me the most."