As long as you keep a couple things in mind, Izzy Skinner advises, it’s not that difficult to take the beating that comes with being a girls lacrosse goalkeeper.

“There are some points where you just automatically flinch — that’s when you give up a goal,” Skinner said. “You just take it. It only hurts for a few seconds. Then it’s a bruise, and you’ve got a great story.”

Skinner racked up a lot of bruises this season as a senior at Messalonskee, but she also racked up 130 saves. She was a major factor in the Eagles going undefeated in the regular season and winning the program’s first Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship.

For her outstanding season, Skinner is the choice as the Morning Sentinel Girls Lacrosse Player of the year. Also considered was Skinner’s teammate, Kristy Bernatchez.

Messalonskee coach Ashley Pullen said Skinner’s greatest strength as a goalkeeper is her mental toughness — her ability to understand that giving up six goals is a pretty good game, and to stay focused when opponents score more than that.

As Skinner describes it, she took a winding road to get to that point. She didn’t start playing lacrosse until seventh grade, and wasn’t a goalkeeper until a year later.

“My sophomore and junior year, I’d always get mad,” Skinner said. “I thought it was my fault that we lost. I just had a terrible attitude by the end of the game.”

One thing Skinner would do in those years is push the ball aside after a goal, being so frustrated that she would retaliate by making someone else chase after the ball.

“My junior year, against Brunswick, we got blown away,” Skinner said. “I came off the field crying because I was so mad. But this year, I just decided, I’m not going to do that. It doesn’t help me, and it doesn’t help the team one bit.

“Our other goalie, Sydney Collier, she asked me, ‘You never get (upset). How do you stay so calm?’ It took me a couple years. I was able to step up and say, ‘You got this.’ “

Skinner showed her maturity in other ways this spring. With Messalonskee holding a sizable lead in the KVAC title game against Lewiston, Skinner made a point during a timeout to suggest to Pullen that Collier get some playing time. At Pullen’s urging, Skinner also took on a more vocal role this year.

“She is intense,” Pullen said. “You’ve got a girl coming around the crease, and she’s like, ‘CREASE!!!’ It was really distinct and loud. I think she was huge in helping us defend our crease better than we did last year.

“The intensity was out of character for her. She stepped out of her comfort zone, but she did it for the good of the team.”

In other ways, Skinner made sure she stayed true to herself.

“She’s very much a country girl,” Pullen said. “She’ll show up to team get-togethers with her work boots on.”

Despite her saves and physical attributes — quick reflexes, decent height, and upper body strength — Skinner still found herself literally bruised from head to toe. While she was hit in the head only a handful of times during actual games, Skinner estimates she took a shot to the head about twice per practice. At one point, her feet were so purple that she posted a picture of them on her Facebook page.

“It was kind of nasty looking,” Skinner said.

Skinner is headed to the University of New England to study dental hygiene, and she said she will not play lacrosse, at least during her freshman year. Since young women who will willingly absorb the body shots that come with playing college lacrosse are rare, Skinner found herself recruited by other schools.

“It was pretty awesome,” she said. “One coach took me out to lunch. It was really nice.”

As you read this, Skinner is in South Africa with seven other members of her church. She said it’s a 10-day trip, and three days will be Bible school, four days will be helping out people however they can, and the plan for the other three days is undecided.

“We don’t know what we’re doing yet,” Skinner said, “but we’re just going to go and take it by storm.”

The last part sounds like a pretty good description of what Skinner did on the lacrosse field this season.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

m[email protected]

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