As coaches of high school athletes, we know well each season brings with it a new set of challenges - new roles, replacing graduating seniors, injuries, snow, rain, more snow. Navigating the unknowns keeps our job exciting. For girls’ varsity lacrosse coaches Jill Jones Grotnes, Kate Austin ‘01, and Caroline Murphy, this spring has done exactly that. As the team prepares for two games this weekend, the leadership of captains Makena Gorman ‘17 and Emily Saef ‘17 will prove critical to guiding one of the youngest girls’ varsity lacrosse teams in the league to a successful campaign.
Graduating seven seniors from the 2016 season (including four who went on to play at the college level), coaches knew this season would require players to adjust to new roles and fill leadership voids left behind by the Class of 2016. Makena Gorman ‘17 notes, “We definitely lost a ton of talent and leadership, but we have a growing group of young, strong girls this year. Everyone comes to practice ready to work hard and focus and I view my role as captain as an opportunity to help the younger players step up as I push myself to grow as a player as well.”
Co-captain Emily Saef echoes Gorman, “As the only two seniors on the team, Makena and I want to set the tone and do the best job we can as solid leaders for the team. While we are young, we are full of vocal leaders which is awesome to see.” Head Coach Jill Jones Grotnes adds, “We are excited with so many fresh faces to the team. Our youngsters bring a lot of talent and enthusiasm to our team. It is a good feeling to have strong leaders who can set the example of where we want this program to go."
After two opening wins on the young season (12-3 over Lawrence Academy and 11-4 over Berwick Academy), the team understands they must continue to look inward as they evaluate their growth. Both players and coaches recognize celebrating early season successes must be balanced with accountability and forward progress. Jones Grotnes notes, “We have confidence in our skill set, we’ve seen that we are skilled in our first couple games, but believing in ourselves is one of our biggest challenges. Once we start leaning on each other and knowing someone else will help us if we need it, we will do great things.” Gorman agrees, noting, “One of our greatest strengths as a team is starting our game off strong no matter what. Everyone is always a threat when going to goal and our communication has improved immensely. Even though we have scored a bunch of goals early this season, we know we must continue to improve our basic passing and catching techniques and limit our turnovers.”
As the team prepares to enter the Lakes Region portion of its schedule, it knows the competition will become far more stiff. Saef notes, “The win over Lawrence Academy was a great way to start the season and we were able to see one of our strengths in action as we communicated well with each other and transitioned the ball down the field effectively. Our defense also did a solid job of keeping opposing attackers out of the 8 meter and allowing minimal shots on net. As our schedule gets tougher, we need to work to better settle the ball on offense. Lacrosse is such a game of possession and learning when to hold the ball will be a big factor for us this year.”
Each of the team’s coaches and captains has full confidence this young group of athletes is poised for a great season in large part because of their collective attitudes. Starting from the coaching staff, the team has a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of trust off the field and trust on the field. Jones Grotnes notes, “We like to have fun, we like to work hard, we like to challenge ourselves, we like to be silly, we are a really vast group in age and experience, but we have a shared vision for our season. Our goal is to walk off the field each day feeling good about what we just did - whether it was a game or practice. Did we make each other better? Did we take a step forward? Did we do our job in the classroom as well as on the field?”
Gorman echoes her coach’s thoughts, “We are a very motivated group and all very different, but we find a way to connect with each and everyone on the team.” Saef agrees, “The team is filled with a lot of energetic and focused athletes. We all care about each other on and off the field, and support each other in many ways. Many of the players on the team also play other sports with each other throughout the course of the year which instantly creates a chemistry when lacrosse season rolls around. We are always hanging out with each other on the field as much as we are off the field whether that be in the Wise, in each others dorms, or in the dining hall. Our trust with each other is built through these varied experiences, and I think plays a big role in our willingness to play hard for each other on the field.”
Tonight’s matchup with Brewster Academy at 5:00 pm on Farrell Field will put this young squad to a test. They will need to lean on each other harder than they have had to this spring as they seek to take one more step toward a shot at a Lakes Region title. Be sure to tune into tonight’s Livestream above!