The Native Americans first started the game during the seventeenth century as a way to toughen up young warriors for training and as a way to settle disputes between tribes. And it was commonplace to bet on who would be declared the victor.
Fast-forward to the twenty-first century, and what used to be known as stickball has developed over the years into the professional and international sport of lacrosse.
However, for junior goalkeeper Erin Taylor of the women’s lacrosse team, the sport is not just a way to toughen up or settle disputes—it is also a way to develop her confidence and skills she already possesses on and off the field.
It has become a part of her history ever since she started playing during her junior year of high school in Brewster, N.Y. “I played softball until my freshman year [of high school], and then I had to have shoulder surgery, and the [varsity high school] lacrosse coach needed a goalie, and he asked me to play,” Taylor said.
For ten years, Taylor played catcher on her school’s softball teams. The position as catcher gave her the hand-eye coordination needed to succeed on the field as a goalkeeper, according to her mother, Margaret Taylor. “She’s a natural athlete,” she said.
Since playing lacrosse during her junior year of high school, Taylor has dedicated her time to developing the skills and techniques needed to perform in the net. “I used to go to one-on-one sessions with my varsity coach in high school. I had to go at six in the morning every Monday and Wednesday throughout the winter. Once the season came around, I was the only goalie so I had to get used to it,” Taylor said.
And that dedication to lacrosse is one that has translated from her high school days to her college playing time. This season, Taylor’s dedication is evident with 92 saves overall, a save percentage of 48.7, and a goals against average of 8.74, according to keeneowls.com.
Senior midfielder Nicole Curry attributed Taylor’s success in the net to her ability to focus. “She knows before a big game to focus. She is all serious before a game and more playful in practice,” Curry said.
Curry explained that before every game, Taylor studies her opponents’ techniques, which allows her to prepare to block any shot her opponent makes.
Junior midfielder Ashley Borjeson said that before each game, she researches each player’s background to give her the upper hand on the field. This allows her to be quick and see where the ball is going, according to Curry. But this type of success is attributed to not only studying opponents, but teammates as well. Borjeson said, “When she’s not in the net, she’s always watching the other goalies.”
However, despite her familiarity with guarding the net, it is not enough to subdue the nerves she feels before each game.
“I get nervous before every game, no matter what game it is. It helps me play better [if I’m nervous]. If I’m not nervous then something is wrong,” Taylor said. “I feel a lot of pressure. There’s moments where you blame yourself for a goal and everyone always says ‘It has to get through a whole field before it gets to you,’ but the pressure is still there.” Borjeson said that when Taylor first started playing, it was difficult for her to pick herself up when goals were made, but now she’s able to block out that sense of defeat and concentrate on the rest of the game that is left to be played.
Curry added that Taylor does put a lot of pressure on herself, “We as a team try to pick her up. You can tell she’s gotten better at realizing it is just a game.”
“It used to be hard for her to pick herself up, but now she can pick herself up more,” Borjeson said. With every season and every game, Taylor has learned how to combat the pressure of guarding the net and use it as a way to develop a sense of self-assurance.
“I have definitely become more confident. I didn’t even think I wanted to play in college at the end of my senior year in high school. That was a last minute decision,” Taylor said.
“It [the game] is more mental. You have to be in a good mental state to be able to play well,” she explained. “We wouldn’t be anywhere without her, so we need her to stay positive,” Borjeson said.
And each game Taylor plays fosters a new level of confidence and a new level of success on the field. During Taylor’s freshman year, the women’s lacrosse team won the LEC championship. Taylor and the Lady Owls then went on to win the LEC championship again during her sophomore year—ultimately creating the foundation of her strength as a goalkeeper today.
“That was unreal. It was really cool coming in as a freshman and being able to play and help bring a team to a championship,” she said. “If we’ve won a game, she’s the one we always run to at the end and congratulate,” Borjeson said.
However, it’s not just each game played that boosts Taylor’s confidence, it’s the support system she has on and off the field that has contributed to her growth in this sport.
“I have made real great friends playing lacrosse. It’s an automatic family that you have here in college,” Taylor said. “She cares a lot about everybody, she’s very outgoing, and always willing to help out,” Curry said.
While this sport has evolved from stickball to lacrosse, Taylor’s game and demeanor on and off the field continue to evolve with each game. And just like how it was common to place bets on the tough warriors who played stickball during the seventeenth century, all bets are on Taylor as her season as a junior goalkeeper comes to an end.
Sam Norton can be contacted at