By Brandon HENSLEY
An historic day for Crescenta Valley High School was turning into kind of a bummer. The Westridge Lady Tigers’ lacrosse team took it to the Falcons defense, slipping four goals past goalie Sabrina White in the opening minutes at Rosemont Middle School on March 12. The Falcons looked lost, uneven and uninspired. What was the problem?
This was supposed to be a joyous event, after all. Falcon parents were silent on the sideline. White was incensed, imploring her team to communicate with each other to give her some protection.
“Our defense was playing poorly at the beginning of the game. They were asleep,” said Falcons Coach Boz Crowther.
A goal by Crescenta Valley’s Abby Sheklow put the Falcons on the board. That seemed to wake the team up, and Crescenta Valley went on to beat Westridge 8-7. It was a special occasion, not just because of the win – which improved CV’s pre-league record to 4-1 – but because it marked something big for this area’s sports landscape: it was the first ever home lacrosse game for Crescenta Valley High School.
It may have been played at a middle school, but the game was no less important. Crescenta Valley administration and the athletic department green lit the formation of the team last year, and after months of preparation, including tryouts and practices with players who have barely any experience with the game, the season is now underway.
“This is a huge day for CV lacrosse,” Crowther said. “We’ve been working for it for five years. We didn’t think it was going to happen.”
Crowther was constantly on the phone with assistant coach Eitye Sheklow days leading up to the game, too excited to do almost anything else. The girls were amped themselves, at least after the game. When time expired, they ran down the field and hugged White and jumped up and down.
“We’re a brand new team, so it’s really big that we won because almost everyone on the team is new to playing,” said sophomore midfielder Samara Yarnes, who scored the go-ahead goal late in the game to break a 7-7 tie.
Yarnes had three goals to lead the team. Sheklow and Leah Crowther each had two, and Kim Foster accounted for the other goal. CV trailed 4-2 at halftime, and 6-4 in the second half, before finally taking the lead on Foster’s goal. After Westridge evened the score, Yarnes came through for the final time.
Was this the kind of game Crowther expected?
“I was hoping,” he said. “I never expect anything. When it was 4-0, most people expected us to lose the game.”
The girls officially kicked off the season a couple weeks earlier in a Rose Bowl tournament. They placed third. The positive start to the year has Yarnes excited.
“It was really good for morale,” she said of the tournament. “I was really scared we were going to lose all of our games because we’re a new team, but knowing we got third place out of eight teams is really amazing.”
The Falcons’ roster has 27 players, and only two of them, Monica Nolte and Anna Shkhyan, are seniors. It’s still going to be a learning process as the Pacific League portion of the schedule begins on March 24, a home game against Louisville.
Crowther said his team needs work on the fundamentals: throwing, catching, picking up ground balls and defensive positioning.
“But they’re getting better,” he said. “They got better from the beginning of the game to the end. That’s the beauty of this part of the learning curve for most of these girls … every time something happens to them they learn something new.”
Yarnes said Crowther is a tough but encouraging coach.
“He’ll be hard on me, but we all know it’s so we get better. If you think you’re bad, he doesn’t let you stay there. He keeps pushing to get better,” she said.
It might sound a little too ambitious, but Crowther’s ultimate goal is have every one of his players end up as a coach. He wants the girls to get to the point where they recognize their own mistakes, and tell him about it. If they can take his teachings and apply it to the next generation, whenever that time comes, that’s what gets him the most excited.
Still, presently it’s about building the lacrosse program and getting better every day. The Falcons will have to contend with reigning champs Glendale, Louisville, La Cañada and Chaminade in the Pacific League. Yarnes is happy to do so.