It is the beginning of a new era in Orange Lutheran Athletics as the school welcomes both boys and girls lacrosse programs this spring for their 2019 inaugural seasons.
Often referred to as the “fastest sport on two feet,” lacrosse has seen more growth across California than any other sport at the high school level.
According to a 2017 report published by CIF, there was a 7.4% increase in participation in California high school lacrosse between 2016 and 2017, specifically a 12.4% increase among girls players and a 3.3% increase among boys players. Additional 2017 national reporting cites the number of high schools across the country that sponsor lacrosse teams has increased 27 percent over the last five years.
“The anticipation for OLu lacrosse has been building for the last five years, and it is finally here,” said Orange Lutheran Athletic Director, Paul Jones. “The Lancer community and our partner schools are truly excited for lacrosse to be on our campus. I thank our coaching staff for all of their hard work and diligence in working with me to get lacrosse off the ground here. We are looking forward to this new athletic ministry opportunity on our campus, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to continue to share Jesus through athletics.”
What began as an idea brought to OLu administrators by a handful of students and families will now become a reality as both the boys and girls programs will field JV and varsity squads in their first year.
“The idea was, how can we get this sport that is growing and popular in other schools in the area, as well as in the Trinity League, and get it here on our campus at Orange Lutheran?” said OLu Director of Lacrosse and boys head coach, Michael Finley. “We need to create interest, get students to try it, and then once they’re engaged, develop and build the skills.”
Finley, along with girls head coach Alexandra Kyte, will work with student athletes, families and the OLu Athletics Department to establish a foundation in Lancer lacrosse that supports both immediate growth and long-term success.
“We’re putting a lot of work into ‘Faith, Family and Fortitude,’” said Kyte of the program’s founding principles, “…our love for Jesus Christ, building from the ground up and knowing that the chemistry on and off the field is going to determine how we look as a program in 10 years.”
Players began gathering last fall to work on pre-season training, including stick skills, weightlifting and conditioning. But at the center their preparation is the creation of a culture that is rooted in a strong sense of team.
“The biggest thing we’ve been focusing on is team culture, because we know that has to come before we can start putting wins on the field,” Kyte said. “We’ve told the players, you’re starting the legacy of lacrosse here on campus and you’re building that together as a community.”
Kyte, who also teaches ceramics and visual arts at OLu, knows first hand what it is like to be a player in a brand new high school lacrosse program, as she got her own start in the sport as a member of El Dorado High School’s inaugural team.
“All that chemistry off the field really translates when we get on the field,” Kyte said.
The mix of this year’s participants is diverse in age and ability, and while most do not have a specific background in lacrosse, many come to the program bringing a wealth of experience from across several other sports, such as basketball, soccer, volleyball and football. There are seniors who are closing out their high school experience by leaving their mark on an inaugural season to freshman who are building the nucleus of the program’s first four-year group.
“We want the intrinsic motivation and team organization to be student-driven…and it’s pretty fun to be able to do this at a place like Orange Lutheran,” said Finley, who also serves as director of the school’s FEBA Program. “You have something that you get to start from scratch, and the students have the opportunity to put their stamp on it.”
The season will be comprised of a number of games against JV and varsity squads from local high schools, including their Trinity League counterparts. And this year, both the boys and girls teams will compete as CIF Independent participants, allowing them to be playoff eligible. But regardless of the standings, both Finley and Kyte are looking forward to seeing these Lancers grow in skill and in character through this one-of-a-kind experience.
“At the end of this, we want them to have a love for a new sport that is growing here in California, knowing that they get to leave a bit of their legacy, regardless of our win-loss record at the end of the season,” Kyte said. “They get to compete with a group of friends they really care about. I hope they come out of it with a love for lacrosse that continues to build the program.”