Like many Minnesotans, I'm a relative newcomer to lacrosse. It's an interesting sport and looks like something I would have tried had it had its current foothold in schools when I was matriculating a score and some-odd years ago.
So Tuesday I went out to watch Eden Prairie, one of the state's best boys' teams, try to snap an unexpected two-game losing streak against Chaska/Chanhssen Tuesday night. Here are some observations:
- Eden Prairie had lost its two previous games to highly-regarded Eastview and Blake by a single goal in each and in the process relinquished its No. 1-ranking. So one would have expected the Eagles to come out against a game-but-overmatched Chaska/Chanhassen team and roll over the StormHawks (which, by the way, is a pretty cool nickname that combines the two schools names, the Chanhassen Storm and the Chaska Hawks. They should find a way to keep it.). But Eden Prairie struggled with its ball control and looked sluggish. The super-talented Eagles won, 9-5, but not a single player or coach on the team felt satisfied after the game.
- How talented is Eden Prairie? The Eagles led 4-1 after the first quarter (they play four 12-minute quarters) yet coach Ryan Ward told his team after the game that he couldn't understand why his team had no life. "Let's just forget about this one and move on," Ward said. And this was after a victory.
- To be honest, the score could have been much worse. Chaska/Chanhassen goalie Brennon VanStraaten made numerous big saves. And a lacrosse goalie, who bears no extra equipment other than a larger net on the end of his stick, is at a much greater disadvantage than, say, a hockey goalie.
- When possible, watch lacrosse from the field level. The skill it takes to run at top speed while cradling a ball in a small net at the end of a stick and make pinpoint 30-yard passes is much more impressive at eye level.
- How come whacking an opponent with your stick when he has the ball is legal? Seems to me that if hockey players are known for missing teeth and wrestlers for misshapen ears, lacrosse players would be known for bruised forearms. Ouch.
- It's difficult at first to get used to all of the space behind each goal. But a skilled forward can set up in the 30-or-so yards behind the net and really control what his offense does.
- There is a position called long-stick midfielder. The name says exactly what the position is -- a midfielder with a longer-than-normal stick. And Eden Prairie's LSMs were fantastic, frequently cutting off the StormHawks' passing lanes with their reach. But someone needs to explain to me why such a stick exists.
- The sport has so many similarities to hockey and soccer - with more scoring than both -- that I cannot understand why it didn't catch on earlier. It may take awhile to get used to the rules, but it's a sport worth taking the time to watch.
- I didn't see anything except the parking lot and athletic fields at the new Chanhassen High School, but the school looks impressive from the outside and the football/lacrosse/track field is nice if not overly noteworthy. What does catch your eye, however, is the amazing wooden seating area surrounding the baseball field. These are not your everyday bleachers. The stands, which run all the way from first base to third base, are covered by an overhang and seating looks spacious and comfortable. It drew "Ahhs" from the visiting Eden Prairie lacrosse players.