Nashoba Girls Lax Grows Up

By Ellen Oliver

Abigail O’Brien
Courtesy Gigi Lengieza

Nashoba Girls (youth) Lacrosse is in a boom mode with 90 girls signing up for the 2013 season. “We’re growing steadily,” said NGL President Gigi Lengieza. Now in its sixth year, the team offerings have expanded from one for each level to two at the U15 level.

Open to girls from Stow, Bolton, and Lancaster, the youth program mimics the high school team by drawing teams from the same geographic pool as well as playing many of the same Central Mass opponents. “The teams we play in youth lacrosse are a lot of the same ones we play at the high school level,” said Lengieza.

As players from NGL have gone on to play at the high school, NGL flipped a switch allowing the connection to run both ways by inviting high school players to help with coaching and clinics. “We wanted to reach out to the high school girls to help with the program,” said Lengieza. Giving back to the NGL program are juniors Sammy Gjeltema, Laurel Gumbart, Kate Jesson, and Abbie McCaffrey and sophomores Janice Bolton, Olivia Hurd – many of whom were introduced to lacrosse through the NGL program.

“The little girls look up to them,” said Lengieza. “They love it when the older girls help.” The older players also help the high school program “trickle down” by educating the girls on the important elements of the Nashoba program.

The NGL players are also doing their part to support their young coaches, by attending the high school games, including senior night. They also get to feel like high school players by playing at least one game during the season on the turf at Nashoba, even the first and second graders.

Lengieza said the NGL program benefits from the generosity of the high school girls to fill a female coaching gap.  Since girls’ lacrosse is a relatively new sport to this area, Lengieza said it’s been difficult to find women coaches who have playing experience and can make the coaching commitment.  “We have some great coaches, whether they are male coaches who played guys lacrosse or female coaches who are learning the sport now, but the high school girls bring a different perspective as they are playing now and the younger girls love learning from them.”

One seasoned player who answered the program’s call for experienced volunteers was Meghan Ryan, who played at Nashoba and in college. Ryan, who graduated in 2009, was a goalie on Nashoba’s team and was able to pitch in during NGL’s pre-season. “Meghan helped with the indoor session this year,” said Lengieza. “It was huge to have her help. She filled a void for us.”

The indoor session also proved fortuitous given the snowy winter. “If we hadn’t been able to have those four weeks in March, some girls wouldn’t have touched a ball until April,” said Lengieza.

The NGL program began with teams for older girls, then added younger teams as interest grew.    Although the program is firmly established, there’s still the challenge to get the girls prepared for the competition at the high school level. “We’re trying to teach better skills earlier,” said Lengieza. The early teams, first and second graders, still focus on fun. Beginning catching skills are introduced to the second and third grade teams, with more skills and techniques added and refined as the girls advance.

As NGL introduces skills earlier and adds off-season clinics, they are also looking at growing their program by connecting with another sport entirely: field hockey. Several of the lacrosse players also play field hockey, including most of the daughters of the current board members.  Lengieza said NGL is aware that some nearby organizations offer programs or camps targeting both field hockey and lacrosse players, so they intend to explore that option for NGL. “There definitely seems to be a connection between lacrosse and field hockey,” said Lengieza. “It could be because they each require good hand eye coordination or that they have different seasons.   Several girls play both.”

Nashoba Girls Lacrosse is looking for players and coaches, especially women who have played lacrosse. To obtain more information, visit: http://www.nashobagirlslacrosse.org/

Eighth grader Erin Brooks (center) scoops up the ball in a game against Wachusett.
Courtesy Gigi Lengieza

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