SNOHOMISH – It started almost on a whim, this idea of taking a bunch of girls soccer players and teaching them to play lacrosse. And it figured to be a considerable challenge, since none of the girls knew much about the sport.
For that matter, neither did the coaches.
“I remember the first time we came out (to practice), we were doing things like kicking the ball,” said Ray Dalrymple, the team’s head coach. “And someone said, ‘You can’t do that.’ But we didn’t know.”
One of the players, 14-year-old Emily Hale, even remembers wondering if lacrosse “was like football. … I think I’d heard of it, but I had no idea what it was like.”
The coaches, meanwhile, “had to teach themselves how to coach us,” she added. “We were all starting totally from scratch.”
So that’s how it began, and it would hardly have been a surprise if the team had floundered along the way.
Instead, a funny thing happened. Dalrymple’s squad — most of the girls were sixth graders at the outset, and will be incoming freshmen at Snohomish High School this fall — became an almost immediate power. The team, which is part of the Snohomish Lacrosse Club, has lost only a handful of games in three seasons, and this year has a dandy 25-2-1 record, including a championship earlier this summer at a Washington state tournament for seventh- and eighth-grade girls.
This weekend, Snohomish will be in Denver for a national tournament. The team plays six games from Saturday through Monday, including, perhaps, a national title game on the final day.
Dalrymple, who also coaches soccer, says he got the idea for a lacrosse team because of the sheer numbers of soccer players in the area, and because “none of my kids were top players, I knew they’d never be able to play competitively in high school.
“Competitive sports were such a big part of my life in high school,” he said, “so I wanted to give them a chance (in another sport).”
As it turned out, he said, “the girls that were not the standouts in soccer have turned out to be the standouts in lacrosse. So that’s been great.”
Dalrymple’s team is one of 12 in the Snohomish Lacrosse Club, which has teams for boys and girls in third grade through high school. Though there are other boys teams from other cities around Snohomish County, Snohomish has the only girls teams — six, for the different age groups — with approximately 100 girls participating.
They are part of Washington State Schoolgirls Lacrosse, and they compete against teams from Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma and elsewhere in the greater Puget Sound area.
The potential for the growth of girls lacrosse in Snohomish County “is unlimited,” Dalrymple said. “But we really need programs like Mukilteo, Northshore and Stanwood (that have boys teams) to start girls teams.”
His players like the fast-paced tempo and sudden scoring bursts of lacrosse, Dalrymple said.
“We’ve been down by four points before, and in the matter of two minutes we’re ahead,” he explained. “I’ve seen us put in three goals in 30 seconds. The game can change so fast that you’re never out of it, and for me that’s why it’s so exciting.
“And the girls know the game can change in the blink of an eye, so they’re never frowning, they’re never down.”
If the team is trailing, “they know it’s up to us to get back in it,” Dalrymple said.
Like Hale, teammates Riley Weidle and Kaya Reilly are both 14-year-olds finishing their third season with the team. Both, likewise, are also soccer players, yet say they now prefer lacrosse.
“As soon as I started playing this, I loved it so much better than soccer,” Weidle said. “No offense to soccer, but when you’re playing lacrosse, nothing else matters. You get really into it.”
“Lacrosse,” Reilly said, citing her preference. “Not even close.”
Hale, meanwhile, said she still likes soccer a lot, “but I just love lacrosse. It’s fun to do. … I like both of them, but lacrosse is taking up more of my life lately. I love how much it makes you work. If you like to run, it’s a really fun sport.”