Young programs excited for future of sport
By Ryan Kaczmarski
Olmsted Falls girls lacrosse club met the Westlake Warriors lacrosse club for the very first time last Wednesday, with the Bulldogs winning the contest 7-3.
But really, the story is that the game was played at all, as Westlake is in its first year competing in girls lacrosse, and the Olmsted Falls club just completed its sophomore campaign.
“Our expectations this season was to play four or five games this year, and we ended up playing 10,” Westlake coach Gwen Dillingham said. “The girls far-exceeded our expectations this season. Many of them did not even know how to hold their stick in the beginning. We won one game solidly, against another first-year program, and we played Olmsted Falls twice, which were both exciting, tight games.
“Even the officials have been complementing us on how well our girls are doing and how much they have improved over the course of the season. They are a great, talented group of athletes.”
Westlake had three seniors on the squad in Anna Boor, Amy Cusik and Niki Radish, which leaves the majority of next year’s squad with valuable season experience.
“We have some camps line up this summer for the returning girls to attend, and we’re going to start the season a little earlier,” Westlake coach Jennifer Scheel said. “Until then, it’s up to the upper-classmen to run ‘wall-ball’ with the other girls, to improve their stick-handling skills.”
Even though the Westlake program is in its infancy, there is hope that it will be put on the fast track to becoming a varsity sport at Westlake High School.
“We need to get official club status first,” Westlake girls lacrosse president Art Hohman said. “Technically, we’re not a (high school) club team yet.”
“For the girls, this is brand new,” Dillingham added. “We’d love to see Westlake start a (youth) feeder program. Everybody else, like Rocky River and Bay, started the kids in third grade and they are feeding up to the higher programs as they go along. Once they hit high school, they have a lot of experience and stick skills, so it’s a lot to compete against for our girls.
“Our girls are strong-minded, and if we can just get the feeder program started in the next year or two, it would tremendously help us in getting moved through the club status at the high school and into an actual varsity program.”
“We are hoping to have the program running as a varsity sport by the time these freshmen girls become seniors,” Hohman said.
Hohman had the idea to start the girls program in Westlake, so his daughter Emma would have somewhere to play, after growing up playing in the Rocky River youth system.
“I really wanted to play lacrosse in Westlake, because at the high school level I couldn’t play for another city,” Emma Hohman said. “I figured that if I could get a bunch of girls to want to play, like I did, we could get a team together.”
The girls not only learned how to play the game this season, but learned how to be a team.
“I think we have a really spirited team dynamic,” Radish said. “We just really all got along, with no cliques, and we became very good friends.”
Olmsted Falls has one more year of experience than the Westlake program, which has helped it to grow from an 0-8 record in 2013, to a 3-6 record in year two.
“Our girls have improved by leaps and bounds, really,” Olmsted Falls coach John Moore said. “We’ve gone from most of the girls being barely able to catch the ball, to making real lacrosse moves – before we were just running around.
“It’s been a great progression from year one to year two. We just wish we could get more girls to go out for the sport, but the girls we do have, have all come a long way.”