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From Cougs to lacrosse:  Steinhoff on UNLV's team
University of Nevada of Las Vegas lacrosse player and Wind River High School graduate Michelle Steinhoff in action against Stanford. She took up the game in college having never played it before. Photo by Steven Andrew

From Cougs to lacrosse: Steinhoff at UNLV

May 4, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports Editor

Michelle Steinhoff can't stay away from competition.

The 2009 Wind River High School graduate, attending University of Nevada Las Vegas, realized she had the desire to play team sports again.

She picked lacrosse and now plays for the UNLV women's team.

Steinhoff played basketball for the Lady Cougars.

"I believe that being an athlete is half about loving a sport, but it's also about the feeling you get when playing for a team," Steinhoff said. "I missed being part of a team. I had tried intramurals, and it wasn't the same. I came across the UNLV women's lacrosse website."

She started playing lacrosse in September 2011.

"I knew absolutely nothing about the game of lacrosse except watching a little bit of the Denver Outlaws a few times. The website said 'no experience necessary,' and I took my chances hoping it would be a good team sport," Steinhoff said.

The decision turned out to be the right one. This season, the Lady Rebels ended with a record of 12-4.

UNLV lost to Stanford in the regular season but came back with a 19-13 victory over the same Stanford squad in the Western Women's Lacrosse League Division II championship match. The final tournament of the season was held April 21-22 in Santa Barbara, Calif.

"It was incredible to win it all," Steinhoff said. "For the first time in my life, I played with a group of girls who all had the same goal and drive to win a championship.

All my life I have wanted to hold up 1 finger in a team picture and get to say we are No. 1. It's something I'll never forget, and hopefully something I'll get to experience again next year."

Adjustments

The biggest adjustment for Steinhoff was using a stick.

"Catching the ball and holding onto it is harder than it looks," Steinhoff said. "Also, training for endurance was difficult. In high school, I was the quick, strong, short distance runner. Building the stamina to play midfield for 60 minutes is tough."

The majority of the lacrosse tournaments were in Santa Barbara, Calif., but Steinhoff said the toughest lacrosse tournament was played in Salt Lake City.

UNLV suffered three losses to University of Utah, BYU and Westminster in that tournament.

UNLV edged the University of Wyoming 9-8 in the same tournament.

"The win over Wyoming was a bittersweet one for me," Steinhoff said.

Role on team

Steinhoff calls herself a versatile player for the Lady Rebels. She played attack-wing this season, a position combining midfield and offense.

"I think my biggest role on the team was to get the ground balls," She said. "I'm very aggressive and have quick, explosive power to get to loose balls."

Steinhoff averaged one goal per game.

"That doesn't seem like much, but for me that's a great accomplishment seeing as it's my first year ever playing," Steinhoff said.

The main difference between men's and women's lacrosse is the number of players on the field. Men have 10 players on the field, while women play with 12.

"When most people think of lacrosse, they think of full padding, physical, men's lacrosse," Steinhoff said. "In women's, we have an extra midfielder and a center." The women play with goggles and skirts.

"It's definitely, the most physical game I have ever played," Steinhoff said. "I think that says something because I played for Wind River, were our girls ran up more fouls in the first two minutes of a game than some teams did all season."

Steinhoff is the assistant lcarosse coach for Durango High School in Nevada. She is doing her practicum teaching at the school.

"Starting next school year, girls lacrosse will be a school funded sport," Steinhoff said. "It has always been a club sport."

Lacrosse will be played in the winter in Nevada high schools.

"The head coach doesn't know anything about lacrosse, so he just supervises while I run practice," Steinhoff said. "Throughout the summer we will be working on recruiting more girls for the winter. We will also have summer practices and will be sending girls to camps."

Steinhoff always wanted to coach as part of her planned teaching career.

"This is a great start," Steinhoff said. "It's very different stepping out of an athlete mode and trying coaching the game. However, I think that it has really improved me as an athlete. As a coach, you see things that you don't as a player."

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Wind River, Cougars