For those of us who are lacrosse fans – if you like sports you really should give the game a long look – a lot of recent attention has been on the newest version 6v6.
The 6v6 game is something quite new, an amalgamation of sorts taking much from the box game, adding the pace of basketball, playing it on a smaller outdoor field, all in the hopes of gaining favour with the Summer Olympics committee to add 6v6 lacrosse to its roster of medal sports.
The game was given a trial run this summer at the World Games in Birmingham, Ala., and the women’s side was recently highlighted by the maiden voyage of World Lacrosse Super Sixes event.
The women’s event held in early October saw Canada win four games and lose one throughout the weekend, building upon the success of the team who won gold at the World Games in July.
Canada defeated the Haudenosaunee 17-4 in the gold medal game.
The Canadian roster included a pair of Albertans Milana Zizakovic and Alex Matsuoka.
Matsuoka said the Super Sixes experience was a great one.
“It was super awesome, a great series,” the midfielder currently playing midfield with the University of Oregon Ducks.
“It was amazing,” echoed Zizakovic, who plays with Towson in the NCAA. “It was just a super opportunity that I was able to go play that weekend.”
Matsuoka said just getting to wear the Team Canada jersey makes an event special for an athlete, and of course winning only enhances such as experience.
So how do girls from Alberta become national level athletes in field lacrosse?
Matsuoka said the women’s game is starting to emerge in this country.
“It’s definitely growing a lot more in Canada,” she said, adding that having two Albertans on the team “. . . shows lacrosse is growing out west as well.”
In Matsuoka’s case lacrosse is sort of a family thing.
“I have an older brother who played lacrosse,” she said, adding it was sort of a natural thing to eventually try it herself. “It was just time for me to pick up a stick.”
Initially Matsuoka learned lacrosse indoors in the tight confines of that version of the game, but eventually transitioned to the women’s game, which she admitted is a lot different in terms of rules than the men’s field game.
“There’s a lot more finesse,” she said, adding she also thinks women need better stick skills because of the pockets on their sticks.
Admitting it can be confusing for viewers, Matsuoka noted that is one thing 6v6 attempts to do, to bring the men’s and women’s versions closer to being the same.
Zizakovic also began playing box lacrosse. She said she had been playing ringette when the team decided to make the switch to indoor lacrosse.
“It was a very big leap,” she said, but one she also found she enjoyed, eventually evolving her game to play field.
The early exposure to the box game makes sixes a comfortable option for Zizakovic.
“It’s so cool how both games (box and field) mix . . . It’s a perfect union of both versions of lacrosse put together,” she said.
Matsuoka said she has liked her introduction to 6v6 lacrosse.
“I think sixes offers players a totally different experience,” she said. “Honestly it’s more exciting to play . . . It’s definitely a different experience.”
But, sixes has its own character to adapt too as well, starting with a back-and-forth show resulting in lots of goals.
“You definitely have to get in the mindset you won’t be able to stop every play on offence,” said Matsuoka, likening it much more to basketball in that regard.
For Zizakovic sixes is emerging as her favoured version of lacrosse.
“I would say 6v6. I just think it’s so much fun,” she said, adding a large part of that is no face-offs after goals so players have to get back on defence immediately.
“It took some getting used to to keep playing, but it keeps you very involved in the game. I really like that aspect.”
Admitting it is likely because she learned the indoor game first, Matsuoka said she too actually likes sixes more than field right now.
“It’s super exciting – super fun,” she said, adding because players play at both ends of the field it really keeps players engaged and broadens the skill set they need to succeed.
Super Sixes will return next October in Oshawa, Ont.