HOLLY SPRINGS — Neither an 18-1 loss to Wakefield Tuesday nor a 1-6 early season record can dampen the enthusiasm or optimism for Holly Springs second-year lacrosse coach Bridget Walker or her players.
Wins have been few and far between for the girls who have played for the Golden Hawks over the years. They were 1-14 last season.
But Walker, along with the current team captains, has a plan to improve the program. The biggest key is getting better athletes, most of whom have never played the sport, to give it a shot.
“If we can get the good athletes who are coachable to play, we can teach lacrosse, good athletes make good lacrosse players,” said Walker, who played high school lacrosse in Maryland and then played for Methodist University in Fayetteville.
Captains Rachel Halley, a senior, M.J. Barton, a senior, and Michelle Lishner, a junior, are doing what they can to not only make this year’s team more successful, but also build a solid base for the future.
“They’re great athletes, try their best every time and lead by example,” Walker said of the trio. “They support their teammates. They’ll make a pass to a younger teammate, even if they don’t think they’ll catch it. They’ll still make the pass to help them learn.”
The captains’ work began before the season. Halley, who started playing while in middle school, worked to get other girls to join the team, including freshmen she met before school started last August.
“We’ve got girls on this team who never played lacrosse before, not just freshmen, but also juniors. We’re developing a program here,” said Halley, who hopes to play at Appalachian State on the club team next year. “Even if we don’t win a lot this year we have fun playing and the program is getting better.”
Two of the seniors will play college soccer next year. Barton signed to play at Methodist and MacKenzie Thomas, who is injured, will play at Meredith College in Raleigh.
Morgan Willow, a junior, had the Hawks’ only goal against the Wolverines and is the kind of athlete Walker is looking for.
“She’s an amazing athlete, a former soccer player,” Walker said. “She’s a quick learner. She listens to everything I say and puts it into action. And Kelsie O’Connell is another soccer player, a sophomore, again, an aggressive player and learning quickly.”
The goalkeeper is basketball player Hadiya Howard.
“She’s a great goalie, quick hands, eye-hand coordination. Played defense last year but half-way through the season went into the goal and had games with eight and nine saves,” Walker said.
The win this year came against Heritage and there are two one-goal losses to Cary and Middle Creek. The Hawks a looking forward to those two rematches.
“So there’s been a difference, it just hasn’t translated into scoring goals,” Walker said. “The girls are taking the losses with a grain of salt. If they can learn something from this game, learn something everyday, I’m pleased.”
Wakefield stayed undefeated at 7-0 with the win, led by Ashley Blawas with five goals. Wolverines coach Deanna Grasso complimented the Hawks, saying, “They came at us aggressively and there are some athletes on that team.”
And those are just the characteristics coach Walker is looking for.