On the soccer field, Tyler Collins and Brett St. Martin are seemingly interchangeable parts in the middle of Mount Saint Joseph’s defense.
Exceptional one-on-one markers, both players can dominate in the air, erase mistakes and do so many other things to help the Gaels win.
Collins, at 6 feet 2, is fast, confident and aggressive.
St. Martin, 6-1, is smooth, poised and instinctive.
Apart, both would be just fine anchoring the team’s back line.
“They’re our wall back there,” Mount Saint Joseph coach Mike St. Martin, Brett’s father, said. “They just complement each other really well and are pure defenders. They’ve always been defenders and relish their roles.”
A senior-laden team coming off a 14-3-2 season, the No. 2 Gaels believe they are set up to bring home the program’s first Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship since 2009.
After a 3-0 season-opening win over Archbishop Spalding on Friday, they get an immediate chance to see how they stack up when they travel to last year’s league runner-up and No. 1 Archbishop Curley (2-0) on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
For Collins and Brett St. Martin, both four-year varsity players who are two-year captains and All-Metro first-team selections, the plan is to savor every challenge in their final high school season.
“I think we just have to work together and stay positive. As long as we stay united, I don’t think anybody can handle us,” said Collins, who has committed to play for Navy.
The team’s strength has been in the back since Collins and St. Martin established themselves as two of the area’s best defenders. Last season, the Gaels allowed just 13 goals and posted 10 shutouts in 19 games with an appearance in the league semifinals.
The familiarity the two standouts have playing side by side — Collins plays right central back with St. Martin at left central back — brings comfort, confidence and consistency.
Collins is quick to challenge every ball, knowing he has the speed to recover and St. Martin always nearby to help. With Collins around, St. Martin makes timely runs forward to help the Gaels on offense, finishing with five goals and four assists last season.
Also teammates throughout their high school years in club ball, the dynamic pair plays in near-perfect harmony.
“Tyler and I have a good connection together, a good feel for what each other can do really well,” said Brett St. Martin, who recently committed to Maryland. “We’re comfortable next to each other knowing when one of us can go up and one stays back. We just have a really good sense of where we’re going to be.”
Joining the two in back is junior goalkeeper Ashton Carey, in his first season as a starter; returning right back and fellow captain Jordan Ehart, a senior; and sophomore left back Dmitri Jordan, who showed promise coming off the bench last season.
Ehart said Collins is the fastest defender he’s played with and St. Martin is the calmest.
“It’s nice knowing that if something happens, we have them behind all of us,” he said. “Between them, you have everything you want in defenders, so it’s pretty cool.”
Not so much for opponents.
Curley coach Barry Stitz says the Gaels’ pair causes problems few defenses can. The combination of speed, size and game sense the two consistently bring is a difficult puzzle to solve.
“You know right off you’re going to have to make the most of your chances,” Stitz said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t possess the ball against them. But in terms of opportunities in the final third, there’s not going to be many chances, and when you get them, you have to take advantage.”
Not only have Collins and St. Martin steadily developed their games over their careers, they’ve turned into leaders. They believe that aspect is instrumental in the team’s goal of winning a league championship.
St. Martin is quick to voice his thoughts on and off the field, having a knack for communicating as the coach’s son to help get the most out of his teammates.
“The first thing is setting an example with your play on the field and just being a loud voice,” he said. “There’s times that you may need to yell and correct teammates and also times when they just need to be picked up. They know they can play better, but it’s just sometimes they need that confidence.”
Collins was visiting the Naval Academy when he picked up on something coach Tim O’Donohue said and has taken it to heart. He talked about a past captain who insisted on sweeping the locker room after practices and games instead of assigning a freshman to handle the task.
“The captain said he serves the team, so I kind of brought that here,” Collins said. “Instead of making the freshmen do everything, I’ll help them carry the ball and water. I want to bring everybody together and my main goal is to serve the team. I learned that just from a few words from the Naval Academy.”