Learning lacrosse

It was an introduction, and an education.

Through nine years as a professional, and more than three decades as a sports fan, I had never attended a lacrosse game.

Tiffin University has had a varsity lacrosse team since 2010. But the timing to attend a game never arrived.

That changed Friday night. The combination of poor weather (the forecast indicated there would be plenty of prep cancellations) and the day (Friday tends to be our lightest night in the spring schedule-wise) gave me the opportunity to attend the Dragons’ game with Notre Dame College.

My knowledge of the sport was limited to what I had read in the boxes TU provided, and a 2008 conversation with former Tiffin coach Mark Schreiber.

When I told him I knew nothing about lacrosse, he responded that I knew enough.

“It’s just like basketball,” he said.

Well, a day after watching TU beat Notre Dame, 16-15, I can affirm that it’s not QUITE like basketball.

If it was, Alexandria Quast would have dozens more goals and some “and-ones.”

As it was, Quast – one of the nation’s best players – had at least three key goals waved off because she was fouled just before making a shot.

There were others getting an education Friday.

Tiffin women’s basketball players Karli Mast and Jessica Harris were in the press box last night, as was one of that program’s assistant coaches, James Bell.

We all continually made references to other sports.

“They’re playing a zone defense,” Bell said when Dragons were up against their goal.

Mast made a soccer comparison. I compared it to football, in light of some of the hits the young women absorbed.

But by the final minutes of the tight game, we all were into it. Mast, who was doing the public address announcing, was slamming her arms on the table. Bell was giving out coaching advice. Harris watched as intently as if she was watching the final seconds of a game at Gillmor Center.

In the end, we found ourselves reacting to this sport like every other one, even though there are some interesting twists.

After each goal, there is a draw, something similar to a tip off. For a time, it seemed that whomever had “draw control” had the momentum.

What impressed me so much was how much discipline there was on passing. Players on both sides effortlessly threw across the field, with the ball (which, in a night game, is hard to see) going from one stick to another.

“Oh,” I said after a rare miss on a pass. “That’s what a ground ball is.”

Like I said, it was an education.

What was most impressive was the Dragons themselves. After starting the season losing six of their first seven, they came into Saturday night’s game with Grand Valley State having won five straight games. More than that, TU stood at 4-0 in the Great Lake Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

It’s the first year that lacrosse has been a GLIAC sport.

In my postgame interview with first year TU lacrosse coach Erica Brown, I confessed it was my first match – I was afraid I’d ask her about touchdowns.

She said momentum for the sport is building.

“People are like, ‘oh, yeah, that’s the one with the stick and the net, right?'” Brown said. “So it’s nice that people can come out, and it’s an exciting game to watch. There’s not a lot of downtime going on. It’s nice to kind of get buzz, especially around campus. Girls come to practice and say ‘someone asked me if I played lacrosse.’

“It’s nice to be recognized, especially for the girls, by other students.”

Keep on winning, and the the team – and lacrosse itself – will get plenty more recognition.