Faceguarding and lacrosse: 'A game within a game'
It’s an honor and a nuisance at the same time.
When an elite girls lacrosse player steps on the field, she knows nothing will be easy. She is going to see multiple defenders. She will be trapped. The defensive scheme is built around slowing her down. There’s no hiding when you are the star.
One of the more popular defensive techniques against these players is a faceguard. Which means exactly what the name implies. A top defender will be just a few inches away from you the entire game — regardless of where you are on the field.
It can get frustrating. But it’s also a compliment to their game and just another challenge the top scorers on Long Island embrace.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Joely Caramelli, a senior midfielder for Massapequa.
She added it with a laugh, "But also a little annoying at the same time."
Caramelli, who is committed to play at Syracuse, said she initially became frustrated by the faceguard. She thought the best option was to stay out of the set and let others control the play’s fate. But she quickly realized that was exactly what the defense wanted and she became more aggressive to make plays for herself and others.
“In my earlier years when I got a faceguard I would get lost and just totally get out of the play,” Caramelli said. “But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned some tricks. Use the crease to get away from the defender, set some picks, stuff like that.”
And she’s not alone in that regard. The biggest challenge was the initial adjustment to knowing that you’ll have to get creative to get open on every play.
“It’s more of a game within a game,” said Kayla Gilmore, a junior midfielder for Floyd. “Like for me, I like to work the crease when I’m faceguarded, especially because in high school defenders can’t go in there. I do short and quick movements, stop-and-go. So for me, I think it’s more fun.”
Gilmore, who is committed to play at Maryland, relies on tricks she’s learned in other sports to get open. She’s also a standout soccer and basketball player and some of those moves translate on a lacrosse field.
“I think playing multiple sports with different movements and different kinds of cuts, give-and-go, picks-and-rolls, they all play within each other,” Gilmore said. “I think over the years and all my different sports, I have grown as an athlete so I’m definitely using all tricks wherever I can get them.”
Meg Morrisroe faced consistent faceguards during St. Dominic’s run to the state CHSAA ‘A’ title.
“In a way, I take it as a compliment,” said Morrisroe, a senior committed to Princeton. “It pushes me harder and makes me want to work harder for my teammates to use that faceguard as an opportunity to make better plays.”
And it’s not only the offensive player that can get frustrated. On the other side, the defender knows if she’s tasked with a faceguard, the challenges are just beginning.
“It is really tough because when you are faceguarding, you know it’s not the average person,” said Abby Sabella, a senior defender for Mount Sinai. “You are going against a top-notch player so you are going to be moving around, trying your hardest to lock them down on the field and it’s always a lot of work.
“You know that day, it’s not going to be simple,” the Stony Brook commit added. “You are chasing around. You are running. It’s nonstop. It’s exhausting.”
But there are not many feelings better for a player than knowing a team has game-planned for you and still put up a big point total.
“My travel coach always says ‘pressure is a privilege’ so just playing with that mentality and going up against a faceguard and being able to break it is a game inside of a game,” Gilmore said. “And just being able to break that game and play loose and have fun together as a whole team is amazing.”
10 UP FOR CHALLENGE
Here are 10 players from 10 different teams likely to experience a faceguard this spring. They're capable of defeating it, too. (Names listed in alphabetical order).
Madison Alaimo, Wantagh
She ranked fifth in Nassau with 105 points on 62 goals and 43 assists. The Virginia commit likely will be called upon to score even more this spring with the graduation of All-Long Island selection Madison Taylor.
Ava Arceri, Smithtown East
She had 82 points on 58 goals and 24 assists. The Stanford commit uses her 6-foot frame to help escape the defensive pressure and create for herself and others.
Joely Caramelli, Massapequa
She led the Nassau Class A champions with 44 goals and 28 assists and also dominated on the draw. The Syracuse commit has been Massapequa’s leading scorer since her freshman year.
Kylee Colbert, North Shore
She led Long Island in goals with 98 as she showcased her ability to defeat the faceguard with strong dodges and great speed. The Boston College commit ranked third in Nassau in points with 115.
Sara Curley, Lynbrook
She had 48 goals and 26 assists, including six games of at least four goals. The Monmouth commit uses her dodging abilities to get past the faceguard and finish at the net. She also has a name, image and likeness (NIL) agreement with Kylie Ohmiller’s “KO17 Lacrosse.”
Lacey Downey, West Babylon
She led Suffolk with 121 points, splitting them nearly as evenly as possible with 61 goals and 60 assists. The Boston College commit often uses the faceguard as an opportunity to create for others. The senior will graduate as one of the most decorated female student-athletes in Long Island history as a three-sport athlete with field hockey and basketball.
Kayla Gilmore, Floyd
The Maryland commit had 65 goals and 17 assists last season. Her athleticism allows her to get past top defenders and whatever scheme gets thrown her direction.
Meg Morrisroe, St. Dominic
She had 53 goals and 27 assists for the state CHSAA ‘A’ champions last season while being a key force on the draw and every aspect of the field.
Jayden Piraino, Half Hollow Hills
The junior had an even split with 42 goals and 42 assists. The Virginia commit has a powerful lefty shot to pair with her strong passes.
Delaney Radin, Long Beach
She led Long Island in points (123) with a near-even split in goals (61) and (62). The Florida commit led Long Island in assists and her elite passing makes her a tough player to faceguard.