Being the newest addition to the Dons’ athletic department, the lacrosse program, featuring both a boys and girls team, has already seen high levels of success. The girls varsity team has improved from a winless 0-12 record in its second season to finishing second in the league this past year, and the boys varsity squad started earning high achievements even earlier with an Ocean Division championship in just their second season. But what got the program started, and what has made it stand out against other high school programs with much more experience?
Athletic director Steve Sell explains how the idea to launch the lacrosse program started with a couple parents wanting to start just a boys lacrosse team a couple years before the first season. “We didn’t have lights at the time, there was no place for them until daylight savings time actually,” he explains. “And so I said, ‘Well of course we can’t just do boys, we have to do girls as well.’ And it took a couple of years, but it finally got off the ground spring of 2014.”
The boys varsity team started off strong by winning the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division championship in their second year, and they’ve begun this season with a 7-3 record — already surpassing last year’s three-win mark — and are 2-0 in league play.
Senior captain and goalie Trevor Graf remembers the moment his team won the 2015 championship game: “I remember we were playing Carlmont … and the clock ran out and I had the ball and it was just a really cool moment. Playing in a championship, winning, celebrating, everything.”
Graf has been a part of the program since it started in 2014, and now being a captain, he gets to see and experience how the team has grown from the start. He is one of the few players who has been on the roster all four years; the others include seniors Connor Herminghaus, Ben Solomon, Eric Lee, and Hayden Robinson. He’s seen the team progress from having almost no experience, to learning to play the basics of lacrosse, all the way to winning championships.
“Most of the kids don’t play very often, so we’re just a team that in the beginning of the season is sort of thrown together with limited experience. And then we get to go out there and beat teams that have experience, which is awesome,” Graf explains.
But however successful it may be, the boys lacrosse program doesn’t come cheap. “The district funds it … but it’s expensive,” adds Sell. “Boys [lacrosse is more expensive in particular] because they have a lot of the same gear that football does. It’s a lot like having a second football program, which is hard to manage and is extremely expensive. It’s one of our most expensive sports.”
Alternatively, the girls team didn’t get off to as hot of a start, as it was unable to find a coach until 2015, and didn’t win its first game until last year.
Current head coach Kalyn Olson, who is in her third year of coaching the Dons, described her first year coaching as an overall learning experience. “The first season was provisional, and it wasn’t as structured and organized as the last two seasons have been,” she explains. “It was a mix of experience between players who had gone out and tried to learn on their own, and people who had never picked up a lacrosse stick before, so the transition to getting all those people game-ready and ready to compete in a league that had years of experience was definitely a big challenge.”
The third season in 2016, however, was a huge improvement for the girls, as they ended up placing second place in PAL. It all started with their first-ever win, which happened to fall on St. Patrick’s Day, as the team took down George Washington Prep 7-3 on St. Patrick’s Day. Now, the team has a special little holiday of their own to celebrate its first victory.
Olson discusses the improvements made by the team last season as well as its hopes for the future: “I think a lot of [our] big moments have come truly from just believing in [ourselves]. I think we saw that confidence grow into more composure on the field, being able to win tight games last year, I think we won at least five games by one goal. So in those close moments, making the right decision and having confidence in your teammates to do the same was a big benchmark last year.”
Olson herself has a lacrosse history few can match, playing for more than 10 years starting at the high school level. Playing through high school, she then played for UCLA before returning to her alma mater as a coach.
Sell also attributes great coaching skills and experience such as Olson’s to the program’s quick success: “The thing that jumps out to me about our lacrosse program is how lucky we’ve been with the coaches we’ve got. As hard as it was before getting the lights, it would have been a nightmare without high quality coaches.”
With the boys and girls teams beginning the 2017 campaign with a combined record of 12-5, the upcoming season looks promising for both teams as the Dons look to have a successful fourth year and make new history for Aragon lacrosse.