BATH — In a category of sports in which lower scores are the norm, it’s one that stands out.

In some stick sports, it might seem an easy task to keep the opposing team from scoring a dozen times in a game. Yet that’s not the case in lacrosse, a game that frequently sees scores go into the high teens and even low 20s.

“When the other team is scoring a lot, it can be defeating,” said Cony head coach Gretchen Livingston. “Everybody loves to score, and everybody loves to have the ball in their stick and move it down the field, but the most important thing is to play good defense and prevent the other team from scoring.”

In a high-scoring sport, establishing the right systems and rhythm defensively is something that can take a bit of time. It’s something lacrosse teams across Maine are using early practices and scrimmages, including an all-day play day Saturday at Morse High School, to do before the games begin to count for real come mid-to-late April.

As is to be expected in the first week of practices, many teams are shaking off the cobwebs from a long offseason. Getting back into the lacrosse mindset and form is hard enough, but it’s even harder for teams that are replacing large senior classes from a year ago, relying on newcomers or implementing entirely new schemes.

“I really think (the biggest thing this time of year) is navigating how to utilize the girls in the best possible way, and that’s why these practices and play days are so important,” said Messalonskee head coach Crystal Leavitt. “You’re looking for that glue and consistency and figure out who fits where. A lot of that is going to be on defense.” 


The more lacrosse that’s played, though, the more teams get the hang of it. Leavitt’s Messalonskee team is one that’s making a few tweaks to its defensive scheme this year, and although there’s still plenty of work to be done, the Eagles by and large liked the way it looked Saturday.

“We have a new defense this year, so we’re really trying to narrow that down and perfect it before the actual season starts,” said Messalonskee senior captain Julia Wade. “The first game we had today, it looked so good already. It’s good to get that down now as best as you can.”

Cony’s Azabell Assaf, left, is covered by Mt. Ararat’s Brooklyne Choate (16) during a girls lacrosse play day Saturday at Morse High School in Bath. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Unlike field hockey, ice hockey or some other stick sports, lacrosse is a game that’s played through the air. Lacrosse players have the luxury of being able to cradle the ball in their sticks and fire shots from up high past goaltenders who aren’t wearing nearly the padding sported by those in the aforementioned sports.

In girls lacrosse, which allows for far less physicality than the boys game, the rules give offensive players even more leeway. It makes positioning and possession, crucial in just about every sport, important to a team’s success on defense as well its ability to push forward on offense.

“We need to make sure we’re in position, we’re in control and that we’re relying on our feet and our body position to play defense instead of relying on our sticks,” Livingston said. “That game of possession is also a big thing. As long as the ball is in our stick, the other team can’t score.”

The teams that won the positioning and possession battles Saturday — Messalonskee, Brunswick, Mt. Ararat and Lincoln Academy, just to name a few — were among the best at the play day. Brunswick even earned a 9-0 shutout against Bangor, an impressive feat even with the games shortened to single 25-minute periods.

Even the best teams, though, will give up plenty of goals once the big games begin; that’s simply how lacrosse works. Still, by focusing on personnel and positioning on the defensive end of the field, teams hope to prevent too many balls flying into the net in the regular season.

“We’re trying to figure out how we all work together and make sure we get our defense settled for now,” said Messalonskee’s Madi Doody. “We want to make sure we have everything down when that time comes.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.