Lexi Emeny fiddled around with a lacrosse stick every once in a while in her free time while living in New Hampshire.

Her two older sisters picked up lacrosse, and Emeny tagged along to watch them play at Proctor Academy, a boarding school in Andover.

Emeny grew up in Bozeman, spent her middle school years in New Hampshire and returned before her freshman year at Bozeman High.

When she began playing organized lacrosse for the first time as a 10th grader, it wasn’t her first exposure to the sport. But Emeny’s rise to key contributor for Bozeman still occurred at a rapid pace.

Two years later, Emeny is a senior captain and leading Bozeman (9-3) as the team eyes its third straight state title later this month. In Emeny’s three-year career, she’s totaled more than 50 goals, 70 ground balls and 100 draw controls. This season alone, she leads Bozeman with 28 goals and 44 draws.

“I’ve never seen someone pick up catching and throwing and truly the catching part (like Emeny),” head coach Molly Pickall said. “She just adjusts to everything. Can throw her a pass literally anywhere and she’ll catch passes and everyone on the field just goes ‘Ohhh.’ It’s like this, ‘Whoaah, did you guys see that?’”

Growing up in Bozeman, Emeny played soccer, basketball and hockey. She developed athleticism and coordination needed to thrive. But when she reached high school and focused on soccer as a freshman, she didn’t enjoy the sport as much.

It was still fun, but the team’s competitiveness wore her down throughout the year. With Emeny’s older sister Kenzie already playing lacrosse, she figured it might be beneficial to test out something new. She would already know someone on the same team, and it would be easier to be traveling to the same places.

“I don’t remember it being a big deal, but I was over soccer,” Emeny said. “I still liked soccer, but it wasn’t for me and I think lacrosse could be a lot more fun so why not try it?”

Emeny learned to throw and catch by playing in her backyard with Kenzie and her father, Brooks, who grew up in New Hampshire and played at the University of New Hampshire. She’d practice most in the summer, in a laid-back environment, when she wanted fresh air and exercise.

Passing and catching immediately came easy. Emeny leaned on her pseudo training sessions, and the skills cultivated from playing other sports. If not for those prior experiences, Emeny wouldn’t have adapted to lacrosse as quickly.

Emeny fit in during fall practices. She appreciated the team’s effort while also fostering an atmosphere less intense than what she felt with soccer. The most difficult part of the transition was learning lacrosse’s rules, but it didn’t hamper her progression.

“I just remember jumping right into it, and it definitely kind of came naturally a little bit,” Emeny said, “but I think just because I was having so much fun, I didn’t really think about that.”

Making varsity months after deciding she’d join a lacrosse team came as a “bit of a surprise” to Emeny, but more than anything, the accomplishment was exciting. She’d be able to play alongside Kenzie, and already knowing someone on the team helped the shy sophomore adjust.

Because of the team’s dynamic, Emeny never worried she wasn’t understanding concepts fast enough. Even as she became one of Bozeman’s top players in the midfield, Emeny continued to learn, often standing toward the front and listening intently whenever coaches speak.

Prior to Emeny’s junior year, she attended a camp at Dartmouth College. The challenging experience exposed her to a higher level of play. She gained knowledge just from watching her peers. Then she brought what she picked up back to Bozeman.

“Lexi just keeps everybody focused and working hard and reminding them that we work really hard, and it’s that much better,” Pickall said. “We can practice left-handed shots, and we can practice trick shots. We can keep improving even when it feels like (we can’t).”

In practice, Emeny earned a reputation of making acrobatic catches no matter how far away the ball is. During a recent two-on-one drill, Pickall blew her whistle to signal the end of the rep, assuming the play was over. But Emeny still snagged the ball out of the air for the interception and would’ve created a transition opportunity if not for Pickall.

In games, Pickall said one of Emeny’s most impressive skills is refocusing after mistakes. If she commits a foul, she positions herself properly while returning to the defensive end. Emeny, who plays a key role as a two-way midfielder, doesn’t have a favorite task to perform on the field. Whether it’s taking the ball away, feeding a teammate or scoring herself, she savors it all.

“If you really want to learn and you have fun and you have that positive attitude about it,” Emeny said, “I think anybody can really learn at any time of their life.”

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

Paul Schwedelson is a sports writer for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.