July 11, 2012 - By Gabriel Ouzounian
From left, back row, Coach Ronnie Booth, Lauren Gamboa, Erin Schroeder, Lauryn VanLoon, Ashley Maxwell, Claire Szydlowski, Brittany Cesarek, Alexandra Geiger, Delaney Bryce, Darcy Muns, Tryna Gladstone, Rachel Klebba, Christine Campbell and Coach Chelsey Booth. From left, front row, Alyssa Villarreal, Haley Vanek, Kaitlin Cesarek, Lilli Antonelli, Molly DiPonio and Meg Miller. Photo submitted (click for larger version)
Lake Orion is a sports town, as any crowd gathered at the average Dragon Football game will illustrate.
But football is but one sport and thanks to the efforts of Coach Bill Booth and Athletic Director Bill Reiss, the next few years should see a marked improvement in the quality of the high school's girls lacrosse team.
"We just finished our fifth year with the high school program and we were doing the legwork to figure out how to start a middle school program," said Booth, the head coach of the girls lacrosse team since it's inception. "Our high school program has done well but we need kids to start earlier to continue improvement. This past winter Reiss obtained permission to start a program in the middle schools. We got approval that winter and quickly developed a schedule even before we had a team."
The team, which played 14 games in the 2012 season, is a traditional sport in the sense that it is not club based. The 18 players that came out for the team were a combination of interested girls from Oakview, Waldon and Scripps middle schools from grades six through eight. Booth said he had no idea what to expect when starting the group, but that the experience went as well as could be expected.
"Just like we did five years ago in the high school, we tried to teach these girls as fast as we could, but you have to remember that maybe four or five of these girls have ever held a lacrosse stick before," said Booth. "The first game went as well as could be expected. It was a pretty one-sided loss but they saw how to play and how the game flowed. By the fifth game we had won."
Simply by playing, the formerly experience-less middle schools quickly gained an appreciation for the game. Team work became paramount and the win provided some much needed excitement. When the dust cleared and the 14 games were done, the girls came away with 6 wins and a 6-4-2 tournament record (from three competitions.)
"By the end of the season, they were really disappointed," said Booth. "They felt like they were making a lot of progress and they didn't want it to end. We accomplished what we wanted to though - we had 18 girls learn a new sport and we were able to see what athletes we had coming to the high school next year."
10 eighth graders will be joining the high school next year and Booth was quick to point out that these incoming freshman would be more experienced than any beginning player he and his family have coached in five years in Lake Orion.
"It's strange to look at it that way but because they have that extra year, these players will have five years of experience in their senior year," said Booth. "Baring my daughters, that's more experience than we've ever had."
In total, the middle school team was composed of four seventh graders, four sixth graders and 10 eighth graders. Six players came from Scripps, nine from Waldon and three from Oakview. Four players were what Booth called legacy players, meaning they had older siblings that played the sport before them.
Booth said it was indicative of the sport's growth and adherence in the Orion community.
It shows that there is an interest in lacrosse in Lake Orion," said Booth. "If the family remains interested, it will grow and boom as the years go on. If all goes well in 2013, we might be able to go into the elementary schools for fifth graders too, though ultimately we'd like to have fourth and third graders as well. It's taken us a while to get here, but it's all baby steps."
Booth wanted to notify Orion that the most important part of the program over the next few years will be interested coaches, though he mentioned as the younger kids get involved so do interested parents. The long their child will be in the sport the more likely a parent is to be interested in coaching for an extended period, he said.