For a program that started four years ago, the District 155 Co-op girls lacrosse program has known nothing but obstacles.
And yet, nothing but success.
The team is nicknamed United because it consists of players from Crystal Lake Central and South, Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove. That was perhaps the first obstacle — getting everyone together on the same field.
“I remember the first year the hardest thing was getting girls involved in the program,” recalled coach Joe Capalbo. “We started doing open field in the fall. We had no equipment.”
But they had players, thanks to the recruiting at all four schools by the now-seniors, and playing a junior varsity schedule, United debuted with an unblemished 15-0 record.
“Honestly, when we started out, there were only two or three girls who had played lacrosse before,” said senior attacker Lucy Metz, a Crystal Lake Central senior. “We had so many natural athletes and the coaches helped us buy into it.”
Added Prairie Ridge senior midfielder Piper LeFevre, who will play next year at Carthage College: “We all were kind of girls that came from basketball and volleyball, coming together to try out the sport. Athleticism boosted us to that 15-0 record.”
The next obstacle was COVID-19, which wiped out the following spring, and threatened to do the same last year. But United survived just fine by posting a 16-4 record and advancing to the sectional semifinal, where it lost to Conant 9-6. They also won the Fox Valley Conference with a perfect 6-0 mark.
Now those freshmen who started the program are seniors and they have pretty defined goals. Goalkeeper Bella LaRocco, a Cary-Grove senior, pulls no punches.
“Win the conference championship, make it to the Elite Eight, and be the best we can be,” said LaRocco, who will play at Aurora University next year.
They might very well do more than that, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Right now, the team is 2-1 overall and 1-0 in league, but those seniors are cognizant that a special time will eventually come to an end. That’s why they want to live up to their team name.
“I would say our goals together are to stay united,” said Cary-Grove senior attack Lauren Hughes.
Rosary gets underway:
Now look at Rosary, which is in its very first year of lacrosse. The program really began due to the efforts of sophomore midfielder Tess Ketterman, who started working on it before she even set foot in the school as a freshman.
“One of the big things I wanted was to bring a team here, so I talked to our athletic director (John Rutter) to get it going,” Ketterman said. “Originally I started talking to him before I came to Rosary, but last year it really became a thing.”
“She kind of brought a lot of interest to the sport,” coach Matt Gunderson added. “Being a program with a school of under 400 girls, and we have a team of 26, that’s a pretty good turnout.”
Rosary’s season will start Wednesday at Geneva, a formidable opponent, but the Royals aren’t planning to knuckle under, thanks to players like Ketterman, junior midfielder Eve Gilla and freshman midfielder Maddie Stumm.
Gilla, for one, can’t wait to get started and see what the sport is all about.
“This is my first year in lacrosse,” she said. “I was in the same boat as most of the girls on the team, meaning I had no prior experience. I think I wanted to try something new. Lacrosse was always in the back of my mind. I needed a little bit of a change.”
Gunderson said rostering all 26 players on varsity and consequently not fielding a JV team is the right move right now.
“My coaching philosophy is I want to keep them fresh, rotating in and out, and I know circumstances come up with injuries and illnesses, so I don’t want to be short-handed and I want to make sure we’re competitive,” he said.
Huntley headed in right direction:
Five years ago, Huntley went a disappointing 1-18. But since then, the current senior group has never known a sub-. 500 record. Their freshman year, they were junior varsity players who went 8-8. Following the 2020 COVID lost season, they went 8-6 a year ago including 4-2 in the Fox Valley.
“I think honestly the reason for our success is our coach has methodized our transition, moving us up in the same group together,” said senior midfielder Kyleigh Higgins, who, like United’s LeFevre, is slated to play next year at Carthage.
Big things could be ahead for the Red Raiders this season due to Higgins, the team’s midfield captain, and senior defender Allie Wentz, and senior attackers Emma Farr and Emma Nolte. Now add in newcomers like junior defender Kilee Galgay and freshman attack Katie Ferrara, and Huntley’s ready to roll.
But the objective, Higgins said, aren’t necessarily wins and losses or even goals. Rather, it’s assists through stick skills that move the ball around the field and sets up a high-percentage shot.
That will allow goals and wins and losses to take care of themselves.