Spirited girls pioneer high school lacrosse team


News staff writer

April 22, 2006

The Westside fields are busy this spring with more athletes than ever practicing and playing on the soft green grass. In the past, spring was a slower time on the fields, with softball being the only high school sport practiced at the Belmont grade school. About 10 years ago a boys’ lacrosse club formed in the wake of a rapidly growing movement of the sport across the west coast. Within a few years the club was adopted by Hood River Valley High School and the sport officially became a sponsored extracurricular Eagle activity.

And this year the boys are not alone. With the pioneering spirit of 22 young athletes, HRVHS now has a girls’ lacrosse team.

The girls started the team by first taking a petition around the high school and gathering signatures. Athletic Director Phil Vesel eventually approved the new team and the girls had the go-ahead to start practicing.

Of the 22 team members, only one had former lacrosse experience, meaning the girls would need some solid coaching to get down the basics and fundamentals of the sport.

But they had no coach.

“We didn’t have a coach for at least the first few weeks,” said team member Anna Smith. “So we coached ourselves.”

The girls started practice by running from the high school to Westside, where they did their best to teach themselves the West Coast’s fastest growing sport.

Once Coach Margaret Koenig answered the call and began volunteering her time, the team took form and was able to hold more organized and productive practices. Koenig also helped line up a few games for the girls this year, against junior varsity girls’ teams from a handful of schools in the Portland area.

“The girls are amazing, really,” Koenig said after the team’s first game this week. “I am astounded most by their game sense. Stick skills and fundamentals will take a couple years to develop, but the girls kept their composure on the field and played pretty lacrosse. This really is a great, eclectic group of girls.”

According to Koenig, the plan within the local lacrosse community was to start the high school girls’ team next season. But this year’s squad would not let the 30-plus eighth-graders expected to play next season be the first-ever HRVHS girls’ lacrosse team. So they took the initiative, petitioned, coached themselves, found their own coach and pioneered a team that is going to take off like wildfire starting next spring.

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