Nadine Stewart, a fifth-year attacker, began playing lacrosse when she was just five years old in her hometown of New Westminster, B.C. In Canada, Stewart thrived in box lacrosse, which is played on a covered ice hockey rink and allows for high impact collisions and advanced stick play.
When she began playing field lacrosse in the ninth grade, she recalled remodeling her game to fit the different rules and gameplay compared to box lacrosse.
The most difficult part of Stewart’s transition was the shallow stick that is used in women’s field lacrosse. In box, players are allowed a deep pocket in their sticks which makes it easier to control the ball while running through checks and avoiding defenders. In field lacrosse, it is the exact opposite.
Also, box lacrosse is very physical, which allowed Stewart to use her 5’11 frame to her advantage and back down defenders as she worked her way towards the goal. These moves are not allowed in field lacrosse, which forced Stewart to revamp her dodges to be quicker and more agile.
Stewart needed to make key changes to her game to successfully transition from box to field lacrosse, however, there was one particular aspect of field lacrosse that gave her a leg up on the competition.
“In field lacrosse, the field is a lot larger than box so there is a lot more running and the offense is more spread out,” Stewart said.
This resulted in her ability to navigate defenses and find great shot opportunities. With the biggest difference being the larger goal in field lacrosse, Stewart often found herself getting the green light to let the ball fly and put points on the board.
Box lacrosse isn’t the only thing that’s unique about Stewart’s lacrosse upbringing. During her time at St. Thomas More Collegiate High School, there was no women’s field lacrosse team. In an effort to pursue her goal of playing college lacrosse in the United States, Stewart played on the boys’ varsity lacrosse team during her senior year of high school.
The year of playing boys lacrosse expanded Stewart’s game as she learned the cut-throat, aggressive and competitive mentality of boys’ lacrosse.
“It was definitely eye-opening to see the players clearly target and attack players who they thought they could dominate based on strength and size,” Stewart said. “Oftentimes, I was the one being targeted since I was a girl, so I took a lot of hits, but I think that made me a lot tougher and taught me how to read defenders in ways that I had not seen in women’s lacrosse.”
That experience gave Stewart a fiery edge which allowed her to excel in 2016 at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and leave Michigan coaches with no choice but to offer her a spot on the Wolverines’ team.
“The ESPN tournament was one of the few opportunities my high school teammates and I had to play in the United States,” Stewart said. “Field lacrosse wasn’t as popular in Canada as in the States which made this tournament very important to all of us. We had a very strong and talented team that attracted a lot of college recruiters to watch us play in Florida and allowed many of us to get the DI offers we wanted.”
After arriving on campus in the fall of 2017, Stewart missed her freshman season due to a torn ACL and meniscus. When she returned to the field, she made the transition from midfield to attack.
“Coming off of my knee injury, I was hesitant in my dodging and cuts on defense,” Stewart said. “I learned how to play to my strength of dodging more straight-lined and when it came time to play, I forgot about my injury and was ready to do whatever I needed to help the team win.”
When the 2018 season started, Stewart fit in well with the Wolverines’ offense, playing in 15 games and recording 11 points with a season-high two goals against Canisius College. Capitalizing on her newfound strengths as an attacker, Stewart played a key role in the Michigan offense.
In 2019, Stewart appeared in all 20 games and was one of six Wolverines to eclipse the 30-point mark, notching 35 on the season. Stewart has continued to perfect her craft throughout her career as a Wolverine, emphasizing her off-ball work and her ability to make quick cuts towards the goal and receive catch and shoot opportunities, harking back to her skills developed in box lacrosse.
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