NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - Might as well call these the Empire Smile Games for Garden City lacrosse star Mikaela Rix. She's having so much fun on and off the field this week, beaming almost nonstop, that she should be doing toothpaste commercials. So far, it's been all grins and wins.
"We're just having so much fun playing and living together in the dorms. No one is selfish. Everyone passes. There's great chemistry," said Rix, a Newsday first-team All-Long Island midfielder last spring playing for Garden City.
Of course, nothing builds better chemistry than victories, and after Thursday's wins over Adirondack (17-5) and Central (21-6) the Long Island's scholastic women's team is 4-0 and has clinched a spot in Sunday's gold-medal game where L.I. is the defending gold medalist. Rix is one of the team's leading scorers with 11 goals, playing both midfield and attack, and taking faceoffs.
"That's what makes her so great - she's versatile," said Long Island coach Carol Rose, Northport's girls lacrosse coach. "Her speed and athleticism set her apart. She's a big-time scorer and carried the team on her back in the first two games [scoring four goals against Western and three against Hudson Valley in a tense 5-2 contest]. She's a kid that wants the ball in the big spots."
Given the dominance of both her high school and Empire State Games team, there aren't that many big spots for Rix. But it's comforting for Rose to know that whether it's finishing, feeding or defending, she can depend on the 5-9 rising senior who has already committed to Boston College. "I've coached her in youth leagues and watched her grow and develop," Rose said. "She's our team captain and she's respected by her peers."
Rix acknowledged that she enjoys all aspects of the game. "Obviously, I love scoring and shooting, but an assist is just as good as a goal. I'd play defense if they need me," Rix said. "On a team where everybody's a superstar and can score , it's a great feeling to get everyone involved in a beautiful goal."
That's the beauty of this team. Rix doesn't have to dominate for Long Island to win, and she doesn't demand the ball. It just seems to find her when the team needs her most. "Definitely, I love to make the big play," she said, "but for me, I'm just happy when we win."
Rix said she prefers midfield to attack, "because, believe it or not, I love to run and I love playing in transition. I've got an advantage on defense because I'm kind of tall."
Her talent is an advantage, too. It puts a smile on everyone's face.