Alexis Niblock is a hardworking, competitive athlete with confidence in her ability to perform well on a lacrosse field, particularly low, on defense.
Niblock, 16, is a junior at Bayport-Blue Point High School and has been part of varsity lacrosse in the district for two years, since freshman year. She also plays on Long Island Yellow Jackets travel team, garnering experience in the craft at a regional level.
Leading up to this past summer, though, younger lacrosse players across the nation began training for the opportunity to be selected to inaugural USA teams: Boys and Girls U15 and U17 teams. These teams fall under the National Team Development Program, which helps to hone and recruit future players for Team USA.
After whittling down the voluminous competition (over 1,300 total applicants) who signed up for regional tryouts in June, a three-day combine in Sparks, Md., ultimately solidified the 22 slots for each respective team.
Niblock, from Bayport, was selected to the Girls U15 national team and is listed as a defender.
“I was really happy, as were my parents,” Niblock said. “It is nice to be recognized, as defenders do not often get a lot of recognition.”
She participated in the regional tryout in June, the combine in Maryland from Aug. 21-23, and was informed later on that she made the squad. Showing up for the combine in August, Niblock said it was a stressful experience.
“Your parents drop you off and you are just with everyone who is there and the coaches,” she said, adding that the event featured running drills, one-on-ones and communication and elite-skills tests.
Niblock said she believes she performed well at the combine and contributed such to her scheduled exercise routine and other relevant preparation. That includes running four miles three times a week, working out at the gym twice a week and a planned-out daily consumption.
“You are held accountable for yourself to be ready,” she said, referring to the individual preparation leading up to the Fall Classic in Maryland in October, where the various USA teams took on their Canadian counterparts. “We only had one practice together.”
Primarily a defender, Niblock explained the notable attributes she possesses that translate into solid defensive fundamentals and technical skills necessary to succeed on that side of midfield: speed and reflexive know-how, refined and opportunistic footwork, a constant emphasis on endurance, effective communication, sound fundamentals, the ability to adjust, and an aggressive and confident in-game mentality. First switching over to defense from midfield in fifth grade when she joined the travel team, she said the new position was tough, but eye-opening.
“I realized how important it was to have a strong, solid defense, even though the midfielders get all of the glory by scoring goals,” she said.
Regarding communication, Niblock said it is even more crucial closer to your own goal.
“If you don’t have communication and solid one-on-one defenders, you won’t win the game,” she said. “If nobody’s talking, you’re not going to win. You need to have people who trust each other and are comfortable with one another. That is one thing about our team. We love each other so much, and it’s genuine.”
Niblock is also on the varsity soccer team, in which she plays a defensive position. She also played travel soccer before high school, as well as basketball. She plays on the varsity basketball team, too. She said she will be switching from soccer to volleyball this year.
Considering all the other sports, Niblock said her experience playing both soccer and basketball has proven beneficial toward her lacrosse game. She noted that basketball has helped with footwork, agility, and communication and also credited part of her defensive knowledge to her experience playing soccer. She added that volleyball should be beneficial toward footwork and agility, too.
When Niblock began playing lacrosse, she said she was not very good at it.
“I started lacrosse in the first grade and actually hated it. When you don’t enjoy something you don’t give your best to it,” she said, adding that she preferred gymnastics.
She joined the team initially because her neighbor, longtime friend and current teammate, Maddigan Miller, was playing. Her father, Mark, was the coach and would not let Niblock quit.
While scouting the athletic talent at field day when Niblock was in first grade, Miller said she stuck out.
“It didn’t take long at all to realize that Alexis Niblock was going to be a phenomenal athlete,” Miller said. “I know that sounds crazy, but when a child has ‘that look,’ it usually never leaves for the rest of their life. Couple the look with unbelievable athletic ability and what you get is a very coachable, smart, tenacious lacrosse player who loves to win on and off the field.”
Niblock’s varsity coach, Ryan Gick, added that she was granted a well-deserved spot on Team USA and that she is a top-performing and consistent, complete player.
“We always say great defenders look like they aren’t working hard because they are always in the proper position. Alexis makes it look easy while dominating the other team’s top players,” Gick said. “We are super proud of her representing the USA and this amazing honor.”
Niblock said Gick has always been supportive, especially through a tough foot injury that required marrow surgery.
“He was always there for me, especially when I got hurt,” she said. “He makes sure I put my best effort out on the field every day. He tells you what you are good at and what you need to work on. He doesn’t bring drama. He is not overly mean to us, keeps us on task, helps us be cohesive. He comes up with great plays. He is one of the reasons we have gone so far.”
Lastly, Niblock pointed out the indispensable effort put forth by her parents in order for her to succeed and elevate to national recognition in lacrosse. She specifically mentioned the constant travel, paying for everything and helping her plan her future.
“They are always trying to do the best they can to help me and my brother.”