Owls hold clinic for MRHS club team
KEENE, N.H. 5/10/12 – It's been a hectic past few weeks for the Keene State College women's lacrosse team. The Owls have been working overtime, looking to pass not only their finals in the classroom, but the finals of the Little East Championship.
Busy burying their heads in books and balls into nets, the Owls also found the time to tutor a fledging Monadnock Regional High School girls' club lacrosse team in the basics of the game.
Holding clinics for the Husky hopefuls, the Owls are lending a hand in reviving the sport at the local high school and helping it reach varsity status.
"There aren't enough local lacrosse feeder programs out there, so it's nice to see players learning the sport at this age," said Keene State assistant coach Jodie Dresser. "Throwing and catching is a little bit difficult at first, but they came in with a good attitude and lot more skills than we anticipated. It's great to be involved with a ground level program."
The idea to start a girls' program at Monadnock was the brainchild of Kyle Woonton. A senior on the MRHS boy's lacrosse team, Woonton decided to take on the task for his senior project. A three-sport athlete for the Huskies, Woonton said he was extremely happy to give something back to his school. "Between football, hockey, and lacrosse, I've been bleeding green and white at Monadnock, so I figured, 'What better way to give back than start my own program?'" he said. "I've had a great four years playing lacrosse and wanted to give that opportunity to the girls."
Woonton got the ball rolling by getting some tips from his coach Jason McGee, who elevated the MRHS boys' program from club to varsity status six years ago. After getting the go-ahead from the administration, Woonton asked Robert Hart, an assistant with the boys' team, to coach the girls' program.
With a coach in place, Woonton started recruiting players. After a first meeting drew a lukewarm response, Woonton enlisted sophomore Shannon Hart (the daughter of Coach Hart) to talk-up the team. "He needed one girl to step up and say she'd do it, and I was glad to help out," said Shannon Hart, who also plays basketball and tennis at Monadnock. "I hope it becomes a varsity program, because I want to play in college."
"One girl came up to me and said she thought it was a joke when she heard about the girls' program," Woonton said. "I told her, 'No, it's a real program.' It caught on like wild fire and just took off."
When the final tally was in, the team had 26 players on its roster. "I had faith it was going to happen," said a confident Woonton.
Since it was a club program, girls participating in other Husky sports as well as seventh through ninth graders were allowed to join the team. Coach Hart and Woonton were especially pleased about the large turnout of younger players. "It's great that the younger kids came out," said Hart. "They'll learn the sport and be the nucleus of the team in the future."
Disciples of the men's game, Hart and Woonton soon learned that they needed to get up to speed on the women's game. "We thought if we knew the boys' game we'd be all-right," said Woonton. "But then we started talking to the Keene State coaches realized we had a lot of studying we needed to do."
KSC Coach Katie Arsenault and her Owl lacrosse team were happy to lend a hand by hosting clinics for the Husky players and coaches. "We started with basic stuff and worked our way up," said Arsenault.
The Owls players enjoyed the clinic as much as the Huskies. "I love coming out and working with them, because it reminds me so much of myself not so long ago," said Morgan Markley, a sophomore from Center Harbor, N.H. "We love doing it. It's so much fun, and they're great kids."
Intently listening to the Keene State coaches and players as they went through a series of drills, the young Huskies were eager to show off what they learned. "I actually leaned how to throw better and also found out I can switch to my left hand, which I didn't know," said Callie Grotton, a ninth grader.
A friend of Woonton since the first grade, Haley Lancey, a senior from Swanzey, decided to try her hand at goaltending. "I like to be ambitious," she said. "I was a little apprehensive about getting hit with the ball, but I have a couple of bruises I can show off."
Owl sophomore goalie Christine Collins gave Lancey some advice. "I just tell her you need to be fierce and to come out and step to the ball and it won't hurt," said Collins. "I don't know if she believed me, because she had a lot of padding on."
Woonton said the team has had a tough time scheduling games, but did manage a couple of contests with the Keene J.V. squad. "For the most part, we're more focused on getting the players and teaching them the game," he said. "We're planning on being in this for the long haul and growing every year."
Woonton, who plans on joining the Marines after graduating, already has a successor: MRHS junior Jake Poulin, who will take over when he leaves. "I laid the ground work, and now he gets to take everything and make it better," Woonton said. "I hope when I get back, it's still going."
Successful graduates of numerous local boys' clinics, Ian and Ryan Hart of Richmond, N.H., found their way on the Keene State College team. Asked if there's a player on the field that could someday be a member of the KSC women's team? "You never know," replied Dresser.