When the ball settles into the pocket of Lauren Pickett’s stick it receives special treatment that allows her to avoid defenders with sharp cuts while on the lookout to feather passes to teammates.

It’s part of what makes the recently graduated Messalonskee senior a special player.

“She has a unique way to cradle the ball,” Messalonskee coach Crystal Leavitt said. “The way she finesses, she’s a great person to give you the ball.”

Pickett has set teammates up since starting for the Eagles as a freshman. She finished her career with 121 assists, while scoring 172 goals. This season, she scored 53 goals and handed out 27 assists.

“I focus on my carrying skills,” Pickett said. “I like to score but I also like to see good passes.”

For her efforts Pickett has been chosen as the Central Maine Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year.

This was no typical year for Pickett, one of three seniors on a squad loaded with freshmen and sophomores. The Eagles have played in the past three Class A state championship games, winning in 2016. But this year their sights were considerably lower despite a drop to Class B.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” Picket said of her first three years. “It was amazing. This year we had a young team, We just couldn’t get there this year.”

The Eagles still managed to go 8-4 and reach the semifinal round of the Class B tournament, admirable considering their overall inexperience. Pickett began her career playing attack — a position she plays for her travel team — but Leavitt moved her to midfield her junior year to take advantage of her stick skills, defense and passing ability.

“Having her at midfield has completely changed our game,” Leavitt said.

It doesn’t hurt that Pickett is left-handed, which allows her to check right-handed opponents without reaching across her body.

“There aren’t a lot of lefties in the game,” Leavitt said.

As many lefties do, Pickett first grew accustomed to playing right-handed, and is now comfortable playing from either side. Not only were Pickett’s skills invaluable to the team, but so were her leadership qualities.

“It gives the girls energy having that older presence,” Leavitt said.

Added Pickett: “It was my last year and I needed to step it up.”

Pickett’s skills and leadership qualities didn’t go unnoticed. Although she had her eye on several Division I programs, it was Division II Assumption College which took notice at one of the many tournaments she played in the offseason and offered her a full scholarship.

“Assumption came to me really,” Pickett said. “They saw me at a tournament. I don’t know (which one) I’ve been to so many. They really like my speed and that I can go left and right.”

The choice worked out academically as well for Pickett, who wants to major in pre-dental with an eye to become an orthodontist, an 11-year schooling commitment she’s prepared to make. Leavitt has little doubt Pickett will excel at the athletic portion of her college experience.

“I honestly think she’s going to do great,” she said. “I think she’s going to step up to the challenge.”

A soccer player since the age of 3, Pickett has a special love for the game and was a second-team all-conference selection last fall. She also runs indoor track, but lacrosse has taken over as her athletic priority the last few years. She began playing in the sixth grade and took to the sport right away.

“I just wanted to try something new,” she said. “I like that there are always new things to try (in lacrosse). It’s fast and it’s fun to play.”

Pickett’s summer is a busy one. She plays lacrosse once a week in a women’s league in Portland and recently got a workout package from Assumption. She hopes to play in a tournament at Lake Placid in New York as well, all while juggling this around her schedule at her job at the Waterville Country Club.

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