Fall Ball Focus: Belle Martire Determined to Turn W&M Into a Winner

PHOTO COURTESY OF WILLIAM & MARY ATHLETICS

Belle Martire set the program’s single-season goals record for a freshman with 45 in 2019.


Belle Martire has been through changes over the last four years, and she’s looking for one more in her senior season at William & Mary.

Martire is hoping that the Tribe can come up winners.

“My senior class is a really special group of people who have been able to rise to the challenge of all the adversity we’ve faced over the four years,” Martire said. “I think we’re really ready to lead this team to a CAA championship … We will not be leaving here without a CAA trophy.”

Martire has been the leading scorer for the Tribe in each of the previous three seasons and is a two-time second-team All-CAA selection. Her career started with a successful transition from The Kinkaid School in Texas, where she was coached by her mother, former Yale star Eva Martire, née Vishio.

It continued through a coaching change and increased expectations under William & Mary coach Colleen Dawson, whose first season at the helm was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. There was growth last season, even if the year still wasn’t totally normal, and there’s increased optimism this year because of the influx of 16 talented freshmen in Dawson’s first real recruiting class.

“The big challenge of the fall is making sure we welcome and include the 16 freshmen,” Martire said. “And I think the other seniors and I have done a really good job of making sure they feel at home here.”

It wasn’t so long ago that Martire was stepping on the Williamsburg, Va., campus for her first year of college. She had scored more than 300 goals while playing for her mom at Kinkaid. She also kept ties to her hometown Baltimore by playing for the Sky Walkers Lacrosse club. Her mother, whom she also calls her best friend, coached her from the day she started playing, and she was demanding of her daughter.

“Even though my mom was hard on me, it allowed me to grow as a player,” Martire said. “Now I love finding her in the stands and her giving me feedback after games. I am always wanting to make her proud, to make my family proud, and she’s definitely been my No. 1 supporter throughout my entire life. I’m so grateful that she’s been able to be my coach and now is my No. 1 fan.”

Martire set the program’s single-season goals record for a freshman with 45. The Tribe won six games and Dawson was hired following the season. Dawson was overjoyed to have a player of Martire’s talent but challenged her in a similar way to her mother.

“When she’s on the field, she makes everyone around her better with her work ethic and how hard she does go,” said Dawson, who was an assistant at St. Joseph’s before landing her first head coaching job. “We definitely challenged her. We knew she could handle this because we knew she’s that talented and we can continue to get her to that next level and that ultimately will help our whole team. I think it definitely has.”

Martire had been an aggressive attacker who was asked to score her first year and delivered. Dawson and her staff wanted to see her pass more, step into the draw control unit and be a more well-rounded player. She responded with a booming assist-to-turnover ratio. William & Mary only played seven games, winning two of them, before the season was canceled, but Martire was ranked 11th nationally with 4.0 goals per game. She also had four assists and was second on the team with 15 draw controls.

 

“I think the biggest challenge was just figuring out how to add to my repertoire and finding when the right time to pass the ball and when to find the right time to go to goal is,” Martire said. “And having more trust in my teammates is a big factor. My freshman year I was often told to go to goal. It would work, but also there’s going to be other better opportunities to set my teammates up to allow them to find the success that I’ve had as well.”







Martire topped the Tribe again last spring in points (48) and goals (39) and took the lead in draw controls (42). She was tied for the team lead in assists, and William & Mary as a whole improved in the playmaking department. She tied her own single-game program record with 10 points on eight goals and two assists in a win over Old Dominion.

She’s been incredibly efficient over her career, shooting 54.4 percent overall and 81.6 percent on shots on goal. She’s scored four game-winning goals in her career, three of which came as a freshman.

“She’s stepped up every single year,” Dawson said. “I know this year she’s been a constant name we hear in our meetings of someone being a leader and helping our 16 freshmen. We really needed that. She was someone this summer that I relied on a lot to get information out to the team and I would talk to her quite a bit to make sure we were connecting.”

Martire’s summer was less eventful than some she’s had. Before she was a freshman, Martire joined the Czech Republic women’s national training team. Her grandparents were born in the Czech Republic, and her addition helped the team win the 2018 Prague Cup. She returned to help the Czech Republic repeat in 2019, when she was the team’s leading scorer in the Prague Cup, then was named MVP of the European Cup later that summer after leading that tournament in scoring as well.

“I’ve been able to maintain those connections, and I’m super lucky to be a part of that program,” she said. “I think it’s also helped me be able to elevate my style of play just working with different people and having that sense of competition in the summer as well. I learn a lot from these European women. They play a different way. They compete a different way. They’ve allowed me to grow as a player picking up new things.”

Martire is looking forward to playing for the Czech Republic again this summer in the 2022 World Cup in her hometown Baltimore. She is hoping that opportunity comes after helping engineer a change of fortunes for William & Mary, which hasn’t had a winning season in a decade.

“I think we’re one of the very few teams probably in the country that didn’t have a single person enter the transfer portal, a single person quit, everyone was dedicated to being here and they really truly want to be here and want to be successful,” Dawson said. “I keep saying, we could be competing for a CAA championship. I have full faith we can do that this year. And I think our conference is exciting because it’s a conference where you can make a splash.”

Martire will have the chance to explore options with an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-shortened 2020 season, but she is focused on this season. She sees more depth on the Tribe and a winning mentality that is developing to make them contenders this year.

“Each year has presented its own challenges — from coming from Texas where it wasn’t a hot bed of lacrosse to different coaches — but ultimately, all this adversity has led me to become the player and person and leader I am,” Martire said. “I’m looking forward to putting it all together to have a successful spring.”

WILLIAM & MARY AT A GLANCE

Former UConn goalie Grace Beshlian joined Dawson’s staff as an assistant coach in July … The entire roster of 30 players last year earned the CAA Commissioner’s Academic Award for the second straight year … The Tribe led the conference with 19.33 ground balls per game … They ranked second with 9.0 caused turnovers per game … William & Mary’s last winning season came in 2011 when they went 10-7 overall and 5-2 in conference … Courtney Vasquenza was selected to the CAA All-Rookie Team in 2021 after the defenseman ranked sixth in the league with 1.33 caused turnovers per game.

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