The average speed of a women’s lacrosse shot ranges from 45-60 miles per hour on average, the equivalent of a car flying down Murray Boulevard or hitting full stride on I5.

To step in front of one of these heat-seeking missiles from as close as 10 yards away and as far off as 25 yards, takes someone a little nutty, a person who knows the pain train is coming down the tracks, but won’t step aside for the speeding bullet and give up a goal.

Growing up with two older brothers, Nick and Nathan, who relished flinging objects at her torso and head, Beaverton High girls’ lacrosse goalie Caitlyn Henderson was well acquainted with stopping accelerated air attacks at a very early age.

Little did Henderson know at the time, but that unconcern for own well-being and relishing of pain would translate into an All-American career between the posts, willingly absorbing careening cartridges for fun and the thrill of victory. Nathan, 21, and closest to Caitlyn in age was thrilled when his younger sister took up a sport where he could hurl a ball at his sibling with full force, but no repercussion.

“I already don’t duck when a ball’s coming at me because I’m so used to it with Nathan,” said Henderson with a laugh. “It was rough sibling play, but it was good. Nathan’s one of my best friends. It was a blessing to have brothers because it teaches you to be tougher. It gave me more of an edge. It was sports all the time and if I wasn’t tough enough, I wasn’t playing.”

Last year, when Henderson was named honorable All-American as a junior, she was initially taken aback by the honor, knowing how many good ‘keepers there were nation-wide. But, once Henderson wrapped her mind around the prestigious notion, the selection made her “feel truly blessed”. This season, after being picked first-team AA with enough individual accolades for two trophy cases, the Beaver ‘keeper could barely bottle up her emotions.

“I was like a little school girl because I was just so excited,” said Henderson with a laugh. “I was just giddy. It was one of those things where I worked so hard, and it finally started to show for me a little bit. It’s cool to say ‘I worked that hard and this is where it’s got me and where I’ve come’.”

Henderson started her lacrosse career in the seventh grade as a field player, which she “hated and kind of wanted to quit”.

The idea of lacrosse was intriguing, but playing in the field required running, something Henderson loathed at the time. Plus, she couldn’t figure out how the lacrosse stick operated or how to pass the ball effectively.

However, Henderson’s world changed one spring day in eighth grade when a former Beaverton High lacrosse coach watched the middle schooler stop a series of bullets during an impromptu practice session in-between the pipes.

“She automatically slapped a helmet on me and said ‘You’re good. You need to do this year-round and keep doing it’,” remembered Henderson.

Henderson dedicated herself to lacrosse year-round, playing at every level of lacrosse from youth to national and everything in between, all with a means of securing a college scholarship and continuing to compete at the next level. When friends and teammates weren’t available, Henderson would hoof it out to the field on her own and hone her quickness with footwork drills or fire the lacrosse ball at a brick wall and catch the ricochet in order to prepare for the lasers coming at her face in live action.

Sure, field players could score goals and dish out assists, but as a goalie Henderson was a sort of de facto controller of the game. Every score that got passed her into the cage was Henderson’s responsibility, which seems like a burden but in actuality was a welcomed obligation.

“It’s a more ‘That’s my ball, I need to stop it before it gets in the goal’ kind of urgency,” said Henderson. “If I stop the ball, it means I won. If I get a bruise on my knee, I’m like ‘That’s awesome. That’s a ball that didn’t go in’. Honestly you don’t really have time to think about it. You just kind of throw yourself in the way and hope it sticks. You don’t think about the fact that it’s going to hurt like crazy later or you’re going to have a huge welt on your leg.”

Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTO: BRYON HENDERSON - Caitlyn Henderson started playing lacrosse in seventh grade, but was moved to goalie at the urging of an assistant coach who saw potential in the Beaver youngster.

As the backbone of the Beaver defense and the triggerman to the Beaverton offense as the ball outletter, Henderson relished the responsibility. Henderson takes pride in being an “athletic goalie”, who moves around the box and doesn’t like to stand in one place for very long unless it’s necessary.

“I can have a clear that goes 75 yards to an assist for a goal and that’s just the best feeling in the world,” said Henderson. “You’re the one demanding things from the defense, telling people where to be, who to pass to. There’s a lot of excitement, and I really like the high stress. It’s not something a lot of people can do. It takes a certain person to stand up and be shot at for fun.”

Admittedly, lacrosse at Beaverton High wasn’t as competitive as say Henderson’s club elite teams, though the senior captain said the Beavers “started the season and ended the season with class”. The squad played as hard as it could and still made the playoffs in a rebuilding year. The high school season offered Henderson some much welcomed relief away from the at-time glaring recruiting spotlight that shown on her during the club season. Rather than peer over her shoulder at onlooking scouts, Henderson could relax and have fun helping her teammates learn the game she loves so much.

“It was nice to kick back a little bit, but still be competitive,” said Henderson. “A lot of the girls on the high school team want to be there and have fun, which is totally what it’s for. To me, winning is life and death for the most part. But, at Beaverton I couldn’t get too mad if we lost as long as our team tried our hardest.”

In the fall, Henderson is attending Colorado Mesa University, a Division Two University in Grand Junction. While taking her recruiting trip, one of the CMU senior’s last names was Henderson and her name plate was plastered high above one of the lockers, giving Caitlyn Henderson a sample of what was to come. Henderson wants to get her bachelor's degree in nursing and eventually end up in a cardio intensive care unit as a critical care nurse.

“Ever since eighth grade it’s been a dream to go and say I’m a college athlete,” said Henderson. “All of it’s really exciting. Even just the type of workouts and how fired up the girls get will be great. I’m looking forward to being on the same team year-round instead of moving around team-to-team.”

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