BIDDEFORD — Mallory Long probably could have played any sport she wanted in college.
The former three-sport standout at Lewiston grew up playing basketball and soccer as a kid. She added lacrosse to her repertoire in high school. So when she went to the University of New England and decided to stay involved in athletics, she chose the sport she was still learning.
“Lacrosse is still new to me,” said Long. “I”ve only played it for four years. I’d played soccer and basketball my whole life, but I just wanted to take off with lacrosse. It was really fun for me. I felt that it was a little bit of all the sports I used to like.”
It has proven to be a pretty savvy choice for Long. She’s steadily progressed during her career with the Nor’easters and has been a key ingredient to UNE’s hot start this season.
After just four games, Long shares the lead on the team in points with 13. She has seven goals and six assists in UNE’s three wins. Coach Sue Frost says her scoring is just part of Long’s contribution to the success. She describes Long as the glue that hold the team together while also being the catalyst as well.
“Her leadership on the field has just sky rocketed,” said Frost. “She’s giving great direction and she’s controling the tempo of the game, and that’s great.”
Long was fourth on the team last year with 26 goals and led the team with 12 assists. She also led the club in ground balls (55), draw controls (58) and caused turnovers (22). She was an honorable mention selection on the TCCC all-conference team. Still, Long expected more out of herself this season.
“Two of our top scorers aren’t with us this year,” said Long. “So I knew I had to step up in that role. Being a senior and being a captain, I knew I had to take that leadership to the next level.”
It can be a daunting challenge to take on that responsibility, but Long said she felt ready for it. She also felt ready to be more of an attacker offensively. She recognized chances she let pass last year and knew she had to be more assertive. Her coach had encouraged to play more aggressively and be more selfish.
“Mallory is a true, true team player and sometimes when she has it, she’d rather pass the ball than go to the cage,” said Frost. “Now she’s seeing when to go to the cage and when not to and how to run the team. I need her out there to direct and take control because I’m not out on the field.”
Another key for Long this season was juggling all that comes with collegiate athletics. One of her biggest obstacles to on-field success was all the activity Long faced off the field.
“One of my biggest goals was to balance everything,” she said. “I’m in grad school this year. So it’s a lot more work. I knew I really had to manage my time and put an equal amount of effort in lacrosse and in school. I like how it’s going so far.”
After just four wins total last year, the Nor’easters are on pace for the kind of season it had hoped for after last year’s hard-luck experience.
“I had really high expectations for this season,” said Long. “We have a strong senior class. We’ve been together for four years. We know it’s our last year, and we wanted to come in and have fun and make it worthwhile. We also had some good freshmen coming in this year. So far, it’s looking good.”
Frost says a big difference in this year’s team is confidence in itself and a belief that it can win. That’s a great improvement over last year.
“Last year we knew we were better than we were,” said Frost. “We were losing games by a goal here or there. I think this year we know we could win and we’ve really brought it together as a group. “
Long says that has made a significant difference in her game. Her experience is certainly a factor but having belief in herself and trust in her teammates gives her something to feed off.
“I feel like I do have more confidence,” said Long, who is studying occupational therapy. “A lot of it has to do with my team. We’ve all played so well together this year. I know I can take more chances and that everybody else has my back.”
Long was an all-star in all three sports in high school but earned first-team honors in lacrosse and was the Sun Journal Girls’ Lacrosse Player of the Year as a senior. That helped make choosing lacrosse in college a natural direction. She says the sport combines things she learned in soccer and basketball. She was able to incorporate experiences in both of those sports to excel in lacrosse.
She scored eight goals and three assists her first year and was fourth on the team in draw controls (15) and fifth in ground balls (22). As a sophomore, she played in all 18 games and scored 19 goals and had seven assists. She led UNE with 43 draw controls and was third on the team with 44 ground balls.
“When I got here as a freshman, there were some really good players on the team,” said Long. “I just improved by watching them and listening to their pointers. My coach at the time had played in college. So she helped me out a lot. I just feel like I’ve been developing every since.”