Josh Blockstein stood in his crease on Montgomery Blair's turf field, no cloud hiding the sun in his face as he pointed and called out to his teammates.
After a play ends, like there's a magnetic force in the circle, his teammates drift to the senior goalkeeper, seeking advice on what needs correcting.
“It's huge to have a quarterback that can kind of call the shots and knows exactly where everyone needs to be,” Blair coach Chris Brown said. “Someone who can see a guy's not covered, can tell guys where to be. And as a captain and a leader, the guys listen to him and respect his knowledge of the game.”
In his senior season, Blockstein, one of the Blazers' captains, will lead a young defense in transition after reaching the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's 4A/3A West Region quarterfinals last season.
Blockstein, who is 5-foot-5, 140 pounds, started playing goalie his freshman season when Brown was the junior varsity coach. Working with Brown, who played keeper at Hobart, has made it easier for Blockstein to improve quickly.
“He's put in the time,” Brown said. “The actual shots and speed is a lot of muscle memory. He's definitely put in the time walking the line, taking shots, shots and shots; coming in before practice, after practice. Just different goalie drills before and after practice make the difference.”
Coming to the position late, Blockstein had to work hard to adjust mentally to being between the bars.
He already had a foundation, having played goalkeeper in soccer, but lacrosse is much different with small, rubber balls flying at you at a much greater speed.
Blockstein said being the defensive leader is still inherent in both sports.
“As I started to understand lacrosse more, it was easy for me to step in [as a leader] because of the experience I had playing soccer,” Blockstein said. “Being a captain on my [junior varsity] team sophomore year, as a goalie it's kind of natural to step into that leadership position. That's something you're prepared to do on defense. ... This year being a captain, it's easy to step into that. I just have to adapt it to the whole team and make sure everyone's motivated.”
It helps that Blockstein, who plans to study biology in college, is a lacrosse nut. When his school day finishes around 11:30 a.m., he finds Brown to discuss plans for practice — what they'll be working on and if anything new will be installed. He spends the rest of his free time watching Duke and North Carolina's defenses, trying to pick up on tactics which could help the Blazers.
“The first scrimmage we weren't happy with the way the defense was going,” Blockstein said. “So I talked to Brown because I want to implement a new system. ... So luckily even though the people we have don't have much experience playing, they have the attitude to want to learn and focus on our defense and improve it. So they have the attitude, we're implementing it and it's starting to look better.”
It took some time, and some vocal encouragement from Brown, before Blockstein felt like the crease was his.
Now that he owns the crease, it's an experience he won't soon forget.
“Playing lacrosse goalie has been probably the most rewarding experience for me in high school,” Blockstein said. “It's taught me how to move on from mistakes. As a goalie, all the focus is on you and every mistake you make goes on the scoreboard. So you can't just forget about it and think no one will notice. You have to be able to deal with and not just forget the failure but learn from it and move on.”