by Andrew Stark
Independence High School began its lacrosse program this season, and instead of wins and losses, the school officials said the year was more about the strides that both the boys and girls squads made in their inaugural campaigns.
“I thought the first season was a success from the standpoint of starting a new program,” said Patriots’ athletics director Kelly Lewis.
Sandy Barnett, the Patriots’ team administrator and girls assistant coach, was instrumental in getting sponsors for the team and was one of the original founders of the program.
“The first year has been a great success,” Barnett said. “Independence has experienced an exciting introduction to the sport of lacrosse. About 60 to 80 percent of our athletes had never played this sport before, so from (that) standpoint we had a great season (which was evident by our) improved stick skills and understanding of the game … throughout the season.”
The girls team, under coach Sasha Vedock, earned a 14-2 win over Hopewell on March 8 in just their second game.
“I am especially proud of our (girls) team, as they all worked so hard to get better throughout the season,” Barnett said.
“(Girls coach) Sasha Vedock brought a level of coaching that cannot be surpassed in this sport. And with the combination of her coaching and the girls’ desire to get better, we can look forward to a more competitive team next season.”
Boys coach Scott Palmer was pleased with the way his inexperienced team progressed this spring.
“The first season went well,” Palmer said. “We didn’t win any games, but half of the team (had) never picked up a lacrosse stick. (They) learned the game of lacrosse well enough to play at a varsity level. (And keep) in mind that most of the players were in ninth and 10th grade.
“As the local middle schools develop players and feed Independence, our level of experience and play will get better.”
Palmer said for next season, he’s looking to get more players involved with summer lacrosse programs and hopes to double the number of players on his roster. He is hopeful the team, which practiced off campus at nearby Mount Lebanon Baptist Church, can also get a home field. He believes things such as that will help the program pick up steam in the years to come.