Lady Bengals complete huge turnaround in lacrosse
Jul 03, 2019 03:55PM
By Josh McFadden
After winning just one game in 2018, the Brighton girls lacrosse team went 9-5 this past season. (Photo courtesy of Chelsea Owens)
By Josh McFadden | [email protected]
It’s amazing what can happen in a year. Just ask the Brighton girls lacrosse team.
The 2018 squad had a rough time, to say the least. That group won just one game all year. This past season, the Bengals showed vast improvement to finish with a mark of 9-5. Brighton advanced to the state tournament where it picked up a 13-9 victory over Olympus on May 7 before falling to Park City 18-7 on May 9.
“Our team had an incredible season,” said head coach Melissa Nash. “The progress we made this year was drastic, and it was noticed by everyone in the league. Game after game, I was told by coaches that our team had jumped leaps and bounds.”
Nash credits the coaching staff for a large part of the team’s progress. Five new coaches — Rachel (Quigs) Muller, Chelsea Owens, McKalee Fife, Tiffany Nord and Mary Barton — joined the program and worked alongside existing coaches Courtney McCabe and Nash. Together, their experience and knowledge paid huge dividends.
If anything exemplified the way Brighton improved, it was its first-round playoff win over Olympus. Just four weeks earlier, Olympus routed the Bengals 20-8. Nash said the rough loss taught her team valuable lessons. When the rematch occurred, the Bengals were ready, and they came through with an outstanding effort. Nash said it was her favorite part of the season.
“Within a just few weeks, we learned a lot, re-dedicated ourselves and came back to playoffs with a new energy,” she said. “We played the best lacrosse we had all season, and we played as a team and won! It was amazing as a coach to see all our practices (in the rain) really come together to this culminating game where all the puzzle pieces finally fit together.”
Nash also highlighted her team’s 11-9 victory over Juan Diego in the regular season finale May 1. The Bengals erased a four-goal deficit to prevail, largely due to Haley Taylor’s five goals. Nash also enjoyed practicing with the team and watching their growth and development.
“I love these girls and I loved spending time with them every day,” she said. “They are so fun and so willing to learn. Some of our team strengths included our midfield team; they really tuned in to winning the draw and making our transitions smooth. Another strength was our goalie, Alyssa Le, and goalie coach, McKalee Fife. They worked together to make changes, and Alyssa had an incredible season. Another strength was our strong and deep coaching staff. Having seven coaches at practice every day with different perspectives made a huge difference.”
Nash said all 33 players on the team made valuable contributions to the squad’s success. Grace Rappl, Paige Sieverts and Taylor were team leaders who helped take the Bengals from a struggling program to a competitive one. Nash also pointed out the talents of defender Sam Heugly, who anchored the back end. Sieverts was a Second-Team All-State performer, while Taylor and Heugly were All-Region selections. Morgan Harris was an Academic All-American honoree, and Nash was Coach of the Year.
Returning players and coaches are excited for next season when the squad will play as a sanctioned sport. Brighton lost only four seniors from the 2019 club, so the future looks bright.
“I am so excited for next year,” Nash said. “We will definitely miss our seniors, but I think we have some awesome freshmen and sophomores coming up to fill their spots. Next year will be a powerful year for Brighton. I think consistency is really important, and having the same coaches next year will mean we can pick up right where we left off. I'm excited to see what our younger players can bring to the table. We have a lot of upward momentum, and I just want to keep it going.”