channel, however, focused not on her jaw-dropping feat but instead what she did immediately after it. 

“Why do they throw or put their sticks down?” 

"> The Art of the Stick Drop | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO COURTESY OF BC ATHLETICS

Cara Urbank, who surpassed 200 career points this season, has post-goal celebrations that range from a spirited stick slam to more of a casual “drop flick.”

The Art of the Stick Drop


Maddie Howe scored her 147th career goal in style. The Notre Dame senior attacker caught a feed over the middle from Andie Aldave, then turned and unleashed a backhanded shot around her defender and past Virginia’s Charlie Campbell at Arlotta Stadium. 

The first comment about the highlight of Howe’s backhand goal on USA Lacrosse Magazine’s Instagram channel, however, focused not on her jaw-dropping feat but instead what she did immediately after it. 

“Why do they throw or put their sticks down?” 

“I saw that,” said Howe, who finished with three goals and one assist in the Fighting Irish’s 13-8 NCAA tournament second-round win. 

It was far from the first query regarding her iconic stick drops, which are probably better described as tosses. Howe has become accustomed to the questions. From professors and classmates. From aunts, uncles and grandparents who support her but might not follow the sport as closely. 

“If you’re not familiar with lacrosse, the concept of a legal or illegal stick, it still kind of goes over a lot of people's heads,” Howe said. Even her most detailed explanations to friends and family members tend to fall short of full enlightenment. 

Watch the NCAA quarterfinals this weekend on ESPN3 and you’re bound to notice this unique element to the college women’s game. Just wait for a goal. The stick drop has spawned Reddit threads, Quora blog posts and a 2019 YouTube tutorial from the Furman women’s lacrosse team. It’s transformed into a punctuation — often an exclamation point — for the game’s biggest moments and bears some semblance to a bat flip after a walk-off homer. 

“It's become somewhat of an art, and the players definitely have fun slamming [their sticks] to the ground,” said ESPN analyst Sheehan Stanwick Burch, who also hosts a podcast for USA Lacrosse Magazine titled “The Stick Drop.” (For the record, her siblings preferred “That’s What Sheehan Said.”) 

Some stick drops are subtle. Others are more emphatic. All are required. 


Some stick drops are subtle. Others are more emphatic. All are required. 


What’s now a staple of any post-goal celebration started as and remains a preventive practice. After years in which players would tighten their strings after scoring to prevent being called for an illegal stick, the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Rules Committee dropped the hammer after the 2013 season. 

A memo to head women’s lacrosse coaches and officials about the rule change contained the following paragraph under Rule 4:

“A goal is not scored when the player who scored the goal does not drop her crosse or hand her crosse to the nearest official in a timely fashion. A goal is not scored when the goal scorer or any teammate adjusts the goal-scoring crosse in any way before dropping the crosse or handing it to the official. The crosse will be considered illegal and will be removed from the game.”

Boston College associate head coach and former four-time first-team All-American Kayla Treanor was a sophomore at Syracuse when the rule went into effect. 

“It definitely makes the game really fair,” Treanor said. “We were a little bit more aware [at first] of dropping your stick immediately, but all you have to do is drop your stick in a timely fashion. I don’t think it’s changed too much.” 

The biggest adjustment occurs for players transitioning from high school to college. 

“Whenever we have a freshman score their first career goal, they always, always, always forget to drop their stick,” Howe said. 

Such a fate befell Tewaaraton Award finalist and Boston College star attacker Charlotte North during her first collegiate scrimmage against High Point in the fall of her freshman year at Duke. 

“I'll never forget it,” North said. “Since then it’s become a bit more of a habit.”








Still, old habits die hard. This past weekend after North scored her eighth goal against Temple off a fake toss followed by an underhanded shot, she started to join her teammates in a customary post-goal huddle. But she still had her stick in hand. On a day when North broke Boston College’s program record for goals in a NCAA tournament game and seemed like she couldn’t make a mistake, she quickly realized the momentary error and placed her stick on the turf outside the huddle. 

“You’d think by now four years later I’d get used to it,” she joked. 

It’s been well chronicled that during her high school years in Dallas, North often studied Treanor’s next-level stick skills. She also remembers Halle Majorana’s post-goal stick flips from those Syracuse games in the Carrier Dome. Asked for a favorite on her current squad, North cited fellow captain Cara Urbank, who surpassed 200 career points this season and whose celebrations range from a spirited stick slam to more of a casual “drop flick.” 

“It’s so fun because everyone’s are different,” North said. “My teammates' stick drops are one of the things I love the most to watch and celebrate with because they’re so fired up that you can tell behind their stick throw is that passion and that energy.” 

North’s own technique stands out like her sidearm howitzers on 8-meter free position shots. She tends to lightly place her stick on the turf after another one of her classic fist pumps. She’s had a lot of opportunities to do so with 86 goals this season. 

“It’s cool because her goals are all highlight reels and her celebrations are big, but then she has the most subdued stick drop,” Stanwick Burch said. 




PHOTO COURTESY OF NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

Maddie Howe, like most players, said she doesn't premeditate her stick drops, it’s those moments after she scores that crystallize all she’s endured to get to this point.


Unlike the Fighting Irish’s elaborate sideline celebrations, Howe’s reactions are more spontaneous. She called them instinctive. “I just get really excited and something takes over,” she said. 

After Howe scored a first-half goal in a late-March home win against Syracuse during her sophomore season, a referee asked her where her stick was.

“I honestly have no idea,” Howe replied. “I think I threw it down somewhere over here?”

Soon, Howe discovered it had caromed off the Arlotta turf at just the right angle and bounced 20 yards into the netting behind the backline. “Try not to do that again,” the official told her after picking it up.

Howe said she’s received a couple warnings this spring after some of her more aggressive throws, but nothing more. 

In many ways, the tosses embody the exuberance for the player whose path has been anything but a continuous celebration. Howe suffered ACL tears in both knees in high school. She broke her wrist in April of her freshman year at Notre Dame then her thumb in September of her junior year. Both injuries required surgery. 

While Howe, like most players, said she doesn't premeditate her stick drops, it’s those moments after she scores that crystallize all she’s endured to get to this point. 

“Even though I have had more injuries than I ever thought possible, I am here today because of those injuries,” she wrote in a first person essay for “Untold Athletes” back in January. 

So expect the stick tosses to stick around this weekend when Notre Dame takes on Boston College and beyond. 

“It’s really become our way of celebrating all the effort that went into scoring and expressing that passion and excitement,” Howe said. “I couldn't imagine it any other way,”