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Girls lacrosse starts new era
The phrase, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” is a cliche, but it is the best way to describe the Mercer Island girls lacrosse program.
The program has a new leader in Craig Van Der Horn, but the coach has been with the Islanders for years. The split between the varsity A and B teams is still exactly the same, with one playing the largest, most competitive teams while the other plays smaller programs. The name will be changed this season to division I and II for clarification.
While many key players have moved on to college from the 2008 team and a young group of athletes move in to make their mark, a Mahony will still lead a Mercer Island lacrosse team into competition.
“We have some changes this year,” said Van Der Horn. “It is such a young team. We have 10 new players in this level.”
Many of the girls on the division I team played varsity B last year. With the inexperience on the squad, two players will need to have big years if the Islanders want to return to the state playoffs.
Mahony, whose family has become synonymous with Mercer Island lacrosse, will undoubtably lead the offense.
“This will be a chance for her to grow as a leader,” said Van Der Horn. “It will be a challenge for her to create opportunities for other players.”
Mahony is one of the best offensive players in the state, but will need her teammates to be involved so that she is not triple-teamed every time she gets the ball. Mahony, Olivia Wold and Hannah Bahn are the team’s captains.
“They were elected last year, and the nice thing is that I would have chosen those three as well,” said Van Der Horn. “They can take on a coaching role because the other players really look up to them.”
The other player who will be key for the Islanders this season is senior goalkeeper Any Judd. Van Der Horn said that her experience will be her biggest asset.
“She is used to the speed of the game,” said Van Der Horn. “She is able to hang back and stay calm with a clear mind.”
Mercer Island also has a young goalkeeper of the future in freshman Erica Eagan, in whom Van Der Horn has confidence.
Van Der Horn has also made changes to the coaching staff. He has brought MIHS grads Jamie Webster and Kelly Nakata back to the Island to help the girls get to the playoffs and improve.
“There is a tremendous benefit for the program to have these girls back,” said Van Der Horn. “We always welcome back former players. If you play here, you are a MI lacrosse player for life.”
The Islanders will need the wisdom of former players this season, as Van Der Horn said that the league is hard to read at this point.
“Lakeside and Bainbridge are still the top dogs, but we can challenge them for the top spot every step of the way,” said Van Der Horn.
The Islanders’ goals remain as high as they have been since 2004, when the team first made the state finals: Win a state title.
Van Der Horn said that the team can make the state playoffs, and from there it is anybody’s to win.
“We give them the tools, but they have to make the right decisions on the field,” said the coach. “It will be fun.”