Senior Makayla Lachat remembers the 2014 season well — prior to this year, it was the last time Bellefonte had a girls’ lacrosse team.
Lachat was in ninth grade at the time, but she can still clearly recall how “upset” and “discouraged” she felt when the school cut the team after a winless season due to lack of interest. But, during the preseason this year, Lachat and former team members decided to take the initiative and restart the program.
The team has not yet achieved varsity status, but it’s still playing other varsity squads as an official club team.
“We did a lot of recruiting, a lot of the younger kids,” Lachat said. “We also talked to a lot of our teachers and friends to try to get as many people as we could. It was a very long process.”
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First-year coach Doug McKee never even before played lacrosse and just learned the basics of the sport after spending 2013-2015 on the sidelines watching his youngest daughter practice with the State College rec program. However, when he was asked to coach Bellefonte’s junior high program in 2016, and then become the varsity head coach this season, he couldn’t say no.
He wanted all the girls to have another athletic opportunity.
“In Bellefonte, softball’s big — and I guess track and field,” said McKee, a volunteer. “There was an awful lot of girls who didn’t have a lot of interest (in those sports) and wanted to play something. They played soccer in the fall and basketball in the winter, but the spring didn’t have much for them. They all jumped on board” with lacrosse.
Lachat said the biggest conflict with the team this year will be communicating on the field, but she doesn’t foresee any technical problems other than getting used to an actual lacrosse field. Currently, the team practices either in Bellefonte Middle School’s gym or on the high school soccer field when the weather’s nice.
“It was very exciting and very overwhelming to know that we’re going to have a team again,” Lachat said. “It’s a last chance for us seniors to be able to play again, so it’s very heartwarming.”
Unlike Bellefonte, State College has a returning lacrosse program. However, the Lady Little Lions had to contend with an early season head coaching change — and, as a result, current coach Megan Wagner still views this season as a bit of a rebuilding year.
“It still is kind of a transition year,” said Wagner, who replaced Mark Mahon as the coach. “But just kind of going in with a better focus.”
Wagner said another one of the team’s biggest focuses will be getting the girls to work together as a unit. Wagner said there are eight seniors, seven of whom are returning — including midfielders Brielle Curtis and Sophie Brandimarte — and three of whom are on attack.
As far as the team’s strengths, depth and speed are both plentiful this year. The freshman and sophomore classes are especially strong since, according to Wagner, many of them played together on the youth program, the State College Warriors.
While the Lady Red Raiders’ first game resulted in a loss Tuesday against Selinsgrove, the Lady Little Lions have already played three games — a 16-4 win at home against Lower Dauphin, a 12-11 loss at Central Dauphin and a 17-7 loss at Parkland.
In one of the last games of last season, Wagner’s team defeated Central Dauphin 15-14 in overtime. Wagner said this gave her confidence for this season.
“Last year was kind of getting us through the season and getting to know the girls and how they play,” Wagner said. “Our biggest focus for this year was getting everyone on the same page and coming in with a better plan overall.”
Head coach: Doug McKee (1st season)
Assistant coaches: None
Last year: N/A
Key losses: None
Returning letterwinners: None
Key newcomers: Mikayla Lachat, Morgan Rockey
Head coach: Megan Wagner (2nd season)
Assistant coaches: Ryan Dunlap, Whit Willocks
Last year: 11-7 (10-1 Mid-Penn)
Key losses: Caroline Friberg, Megan Klaus
Returning letterwinners: Brielle Curtis, Sophie Brandimarte, Alison Heimer, Abby Houtz, Sally Stahl