Broadneck junior Josh Peck waited. And waited. With his feet moving, he was ready to cut at a moment's notice.
And then he did, slashing from the left side of the Severna Park box across the face of the Falcons' goal. Peck had seen teammate Brandt Sherman dodging from behind the cage and anticipated a pass. It came, threaded through the congestion around the crease, and Peck snared it in stride before flushing it down into the Falcons' net.
The short sequence in the opening minute of the Bruins' 6-5 regular season victory over Severna Park in late April displayed one of the reasons for Broadneck's success this season. The No. 1 Bruins, the only county lacrosse team -- public or private, boys' or girls' -- to finish the regular season unbeaten, have depth, experience, balance, a standout defense and a surprisingly mature freshman goalie. And in Peck, who scored a county-high 51 goals with 26 assists in the 13 regular season games he played in, they have one of the county's premier finishers.
At first glance, it seems like a glamorous job. Wait for people to set you up, take feeds, score goals.
But it is not that simple. Or that easy to do. A standout finisher in lacrosse needs skill, timing, toughness and poise.
Those are the qualities, area boys' lacrosse coaches said, that they look for in their crease attackmen -- players who look for openings in front of the goal and put away feeds from teammates or go to the cage one-on-one to score.
While girls' lacrosse teams value scorers and players who can finish, the specialized role many crease attackmen play in boys' lacrosse does not exist in the girls' game. Girls' lacrosse, according to coaches, is more fluid. There usually is not one player who tries to establish position on the crease and wait for feeds.
"Although we've gone to offsides where we specialize a little more, they've got one or two crease guys that are just outstanding down low," said Severna Park Coach Carin Peterson. "You don't find that as much with girls. They're playing more of the field."
One of the most important qualities of a good finisher is the ability to handle the ball left-handed and right-handed, especially when there is not much room to work. Often, crease attackmen have time for only a quick fake or two before they must shoot the ball or pass to a teammate. Sometimes there is not even time for that. Peck's aforementioned goal came on a quick-stick shot, where he essentially caught the ball and shot it in the same motion.
Chesapeake's Brock Spilker plays on the crease for the Cougars, and his quick hands have contributed greatly to his success. After piling up goals early in the season, he has seen defenders slide quicker but has been able to get rid of the ball when the defense converges.
"You want somebody who can handle the ball in traffic well," said Chesapeake Coach Tim Newby.
Spilker, who had started for three seasons, had compiled 31 goals and 34 assists so far this year.
Like feeders, the quarterbacks of lacrosse teams' offenses, finishers must be able to read the defense and find open areas to work.
"They have to know where to be on the field," said Glen Burnie Coach Bruce Bannon. "They have to have good spatial relations and a nose for the ball and be at the right place at the right time for the feed."
Peck said the key to finding the open space is keeping his feet moving so he's ready to slip through a crack in the defense.
To make plays in the tight spaces around the goal, finishers have to show physical and mental toughness. Taking some abuse from defenders is part of the job.
"Inside, you're always going to take some hits," Peck said. "Every time you catch it, you have to expect the hit. You get hit a lot on the crease."
Size can be helpful when playing on the crease. Peck played on the wing last season before growing 21/2 inches and adding 20 pounds in the offseason.
"Last year I was getting pushed around," Peck said.
Size, however, is not a requisite. Spilker is 5 feet 10, 150 pounds, while Glen Burnie's Champ Frye is 5-10, 170 pounds. But both players' coaches noted their toughness and strength.
The best crease attackmen, like quarterbacks sensing a blitz from the blind side or point guards anticipating a double-team, seem to be able to feel the defense. Spalding Coach Haswell Franklin Jr. calls it a "sixth sense."
"They know when they have to get a shot off quickly, and they know when they have time to take an extra fake and fake the goalie out," he said.
"I think they've got to be able to feel pressure and understand the amount of time they have and keep poise to look at where they're shooting," Broadneck Coach Clay White said. "That's just a feel that they have."
All of the those qualities are useless, of course, if the player on the crease cannot put the ball in the net once he gets it. Or if he never gets the ball to begin with.
What has been a key to Peck's success, both Peck and White said, is the unselfishness of his teammates, especially fellow attackmen Sean Summerville and Ryan Bruce. "As a team, we're willing to give the ball up," White said.
"Last year our attack didn't work together as a unit," Peck said. "This year we've really come together. It's been fun.'