By Michael J. Lewis
It is a routine that has worked to perfection, so there’s no sense in changing it now.
Before every Manhasset High School girls lacrosse game, senior Alexis Morton does the same thing.
She joins her teammates in the locker room for a dance party about an hour before the game, as Pitbull or some other equally high-decibel artist is blared.
Then everyone sits down and braids their hair.
Except for Morton.
While her teammates get their follicles set for battle, Morton wanders out to the field for her pre-warmup warmup. Alone with her thoughts, a stick and a ball, she goes through moves she might use in that day’s game or relives misses from past games.
“I like to get in the zone and get all my missed shots out of my system and think about how this team defended me last time, or how I can attack better, or I practice my free positions (the lacrosse equivalent of a soccer free kick). I just want to do everything I can to make sure I’m ready, so when the game starts, it’s a no-brainer. I know exactly what I want to do.”
After her private warmup, Morton goes back into the locker room and gets ready to come out for the Indians’ regular team warmup.
Is she ever teased by her teammates for not partaking in the hair-braiding?
“Nah,” she laughed. “They know me and know I do my own thing that works.”
You can’t argue with Morton’s way, not after the career she’s had. A four-year varsity performer for the powerful Manhasset squad, the bubbly, 18-year-old, who radiates energy just walking around campus, has become a dominant offensive force in 2022.
Through games of May 12 she had poured in 32 goals and 27 assists for Manhasset, as it looks to win its fourth straight Nassau title and its first state crown since 2018.
This follows a 2021 campaign that saw Morton pump in 44 goals and 19 assists to lead her squad to the Long Island championship, where it lost by a goal to Bayport-Blue Point.
All that success has made Division I college programs come after Morton, and the University of Richmond won her services beginning next fall.
“She’s a force to be reckoned with, there’s no doubt,” said Manhasset head coach Meghan Clarke. “Her lacrosse IQ, how she creates opportunities with or without the ball, and just how powerful she is. She’s such a dedicated athlete.”
Morton is as big a lacrosse nut as you’ll find; Clarke said her star attack is always sending her video clips on YouTube (“I told her not to get in trouble with her teachers, she should make sure she does her work!” Clarke laughed) and thinking about her sport.
“I tried tennis and other sports as a kid, but lacrosse was perfect for me,” Morton said. “From the time I was 6 I was tagging along with older kids and wanting to play every chance I could. The energy of the sport, the connection with teammates, I love everything about it.”
Morton started to hone her outstanding shooting and playmaking abilities with Manhasset PAL and with the Long Island Liberty amateur team starting in third grade.
She practiced her quick-strike shots and fancy moves (an 8th grade behind-the-back goal she scored is still her favorite and is saved on her iPhone) on the Liberty until reaching Manhasset High School and has shone in whatever position Clarke puts her in.
“I feel like a lot of the edge I can get is mental, so much more than physical,” she said. “Just how much time and effort you put into practicing, and thinking about what you can do better, means everything in the game can just come easier. You get in your own way when you think too much during the game.”
Richmond head coach Anne Harrington, whose team is a rising program, is thrilled she’s getting Morton next year.
“Alexis is a high-energy person and player. We are so excited that she’s a Spider and can’t wait for her to settle in this fall with the team,” Harrington said in a statement.
“I looked into some bigger rah-rah schools, but I really felt the connection there at Richmond,” Morton said. “I liked the small size of the classes, and the campus, and it just felt like home right away.”
With the state playoffs starting May 20, Morton and her teammates will be looking to take a few more steps and reach states, something they’ve been denied the last three years, either by the opposition or Covid-19 wiping out the 2020 season.
“This group, with the five captains, has really gotten better as the year goes along and Alexis has been a great leader,” Clarke said. “She’s done so many great things and there are many great things to come for her.”