By LANCE MASTERSON
Of the Keizertimes
One of this country’s oldest sports is new to McNary underclassmen this year.
The sport is lacrosse, and according to published reports it was first played by early Native Americans and later by the French and Canadians. It has been played in the United States for more than a century.
But it hadn’t been an option at McNary, until now. The boys team, with its club status, is open to freshmen, sophomores and juniors. As of last week, the team’s record against junior varsity opponents stood at 10-2-1.
McNary plays a varsity schedule next year.
McNary defensive coach Luke Rien, who teaches physical education at Claggett Creek Middle School, said there are 18 athletes on the squad, though a more optimum number is in the mid to upper 20s.
“We’ve got some kids with big hearts,” said Rien. “So we’re pushing it. We’re nice and conditioned.”
The conditioning comes in handy.
“The secret to our success? Speed. We condition. I believe fast teams win games. We can outrun everyone. That’s our goal, that we will not be tired by the fourth quarter,” said Rien. “Because if we keep outrunning teams, we will keep out-scoring teams. So we don’t get tired. We just run, run, run.”
Seven of the McNary players had lacrosse experience prior to this spring. The rest are first-timers. Junior Dan Hokanson is one of the team’s more experienced players.
He described lacrosse as a combination of hockey and soccer.
“It’s a lot like hockey in the positions and the way you play,” said Hokanson. “But it’s on the field and you have sticks.”
Hokanson added the sports’ biggest misconception is that the sticks are mostly window dressing.
“People ask me all the time if you can get hit,” said the junior. “When I tell them that you can, it’s a big surprise.”
The sport, in general, was a surprise to the team’s freshman goalie, Taylor Purkey.
“I was not familiar with lacrosse at all. I heard about it earlier this year. It caught my attention because it seemed it would be a very fun sport to play.”
Not only is Purkey playing a sport new to him, he’s playing one of its most demanding positions.
“It was a little scary at first, just because I didn’t know what to do, what to expect,” said Purkey. “But I have shown a tremendous amount of improvement, being able to block more goals and being able to tell where everyone is.”
Each team fields 10 players, three on defense, three on offense, three who play either side of the field and the goalie. Like soccer, the idea is to get the ball past the goalie and into the net. Unlike soccer, players use sticks.
“It’s a fast sport,” said Rien. “It’s a very fast-paced sport, which is what makes it nice.”
There’s a rougher side to lacrosse.
“A lot of people don’t realize how physical it is. There’s contact with stick and body. So you’re either getting moved on, pushed on or running,” said Rien.
Players get sticks slapped against their arms in an effort to knock the ball lose. Rules define legal and illegal hits and slaps.
“So you can’t just flail and whack away.,” said Rien.
The sports also feature body checks, screens and box outs.
It’s a blend of basketball, cutting and pushing and blocking, with some football hits and some soccer speed” thrown into the mix, said Rien.
Rien played lacrosse at Western Oregon University, and coached at Willamette University last year. The team’s other coaches are Ryan Bowlby and Rob Riesling.