WELLFLEET — When she was at Nauset Regional High School, Allie Bezio didn’t pay much attention to lacrosse. Soccer was her game. Now finishing her sophomore year at Dean College in Franklin, Mass., Bezio plays soccer for the school, but she’s picked up lacrosse, too, and she’s hooked.
“I never played lacrosse until my first college game,” she said.
Bezio is from Wellfleet and graduated from Nauset in 2019. Although the school does have a strong lacrosse program, it’s not a sport she sought out. She thinks that’s because it’s not one she’d heard much about while she was growing up on the Outer Cape.
At Dean, the Bulldogs were looking to grow their lacrosse program during Bezio’s freshman year, and her soccer coach told her it would be a great way to stay in shape during the off season.
She spent a month and a half training. “I bought a stick and had stuff at home to get the fundamentals down,” she said. “I have good hand-eye coordination from my other sports.”
Going into her first game, Bezio was nervous about remembering how lacrosse rules differ from soccer’s. For example, there are “self-starts” in lacrosse.
“If you get a small foul or illegally check someone, the person who got fouled can pick the ball up and get going,” Bezio said. “In soccer, there’s an entire stop for a free kick.”
Women’s lacrosse does not allow any checking or body contact between players (men’s lacrosse does), while women’s soccer does allow some contact when players are positioning for control of the ball. Bezio said she wishes she could use her body a little bit more in the sport.
There are also restraining lines in lacrosse that break the field down into the offensive third, midfield, and defensive third. If a player crosses into the wrong third, a penalty is called. In soccer, players are free to roam all over the pitch.
Lacrosse’s rules can seem technical at times, Bezio said. The sport has its own terminology and statistics. “Draw control” is one Bezio focuses on.
At the start of the game, there are three players from each team in the center circle. Two players face off while the two sets of midfielders stand beside them, similar to hockey.
When the ball is dropped, the two facing off will try to hit the ball out of the circle. The other midfielders use their sticks to push or pull the ball to their teammates in order to gain possession. This is draw control.
Bezio has now played two seasons of lacrosse at Dean and plans to keep at it. She plays for fun, too, and wishes she had known about the sport earlier.
Younger players may be in the pipeline now. Nauset High’s lacrosse rosters have been full for years, but Nauset Regional Middle School does not have a lacrosse program. This spring, however, the high school granted waivers for eighth-graders to participate.
John Simonian, who owns Beanstock Coffee Roasters in Wellfleet, grew up playing lacrosse in Syracuse, N.Y.
“It’s a right-of-passage thing up there,” he said. Simonian played so much summer league lacrosse with high school and college-level players that he earned a walk-on scholarship to play at the University of Hartford in the 1980s.
Since then, lacrosse has grown in different parts of the country, Simonian said. “The powerhouse areas were Syracuse, Long Island, and Maryland,” he said, but “now Denver is one of the top college teams.” Lacrosse has become a lot more competitive, he added, and specialized camps are proliferating.
So far, lacrosse camps don’t seem to be available on this end of the Cape.
Lacrosse gets referred to by sports history buffs as “the original national pastime.” It was invented by Native Americans and various versions of the game were widely played by indigenous peoples throughout the eastern half of North America, mostly by tribes in the Southeast, around the western Great Lakes, and in the St. Lawrence Valley. Its presence today in Oklahoma and other states west of the Mississippi reflects tribal removals to those areas in the 19th century, according to Thomas Vennum Jr., author of American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War, writing on the Brooklyn Lacrosse Club website.
French Jesuit missionaries working in the St. Lawrence Valley in upstate New York in the 1630s were the first Europeans to see lacrosse being played by Native Americans. According to worldlacrosse.sport, one of them, Jean de Brébeuf, writing about the game being played by the Huron Indians in 1636, coined the French name for it, le jeu de la crosse — the game of the hooked stick.
Bezio said she hopes to see the sport grow on the Outer Cape as it has in other parts of the country.
“The more I play it, the more I want to continue,” she said. At Dean, she said, the team is trying to move into a “developmental” phase. Which means, she said, getting more competitive. “We want to be a successful team, as opposed to just playing the game.”