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Mo Meares makes a save in goal during the WHS camp. Below, Braden Otto concentrates on his shooting.
Tanya Ackerman/Coastal Observer

Sports: Lacrosse camp scores big with future WHS players

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Temple Keyser fit right into the Waccamaw High goalkeeper’s helmet even though he’s only going into fifth-grade. He stopped the high shots and the low ones. “You get used to it,” he said. This is his third summer at the Warriors’ lacrosse camp.

Temple already has more lacrosse experience that Gavin Chilton had when he stepped into the goal for Waccamaw. Chilton was among the student coaches at this week’s camp. He is headed for Notre Dame de Namur University in San Francisco as the first WHS graduate to play at the next level.

“I always think about it when we play Hilton Head,” Chilton said. “They’re one of the best teams in the state. They have been playing since they could walk.”

The lacrosse camps have averaged 10 to 12 elementary and middle school students. This year there are 54. “This is fantastic,” said Marc Frechette, the WHS head coach as he surveyed a practice field filled with flying balls, sticks and bodies. He would have been happy to double attendance. “It’s nice to see. This is going to be the future.”

Harrington Street, a rising seventh-grader, is in his third year, fitting the morning camp in between surfing and wakeboarding. “It’s fun,” he said. The increase in numbers means there is a little more waiting, but he was looking forward to suiting up in goal. “It’s fun,” he said.

With sweat soaking through T-shirts even before 9 a.m., there are also more breaks for water. And then there is time spent searching the tree line for lost balls. The camp began Monday with 120. By Tuesday, half were missing. Controlling the ball is everything in lacrosse. Drills focus on throwing, catching and shooting.

Nate Appi, 10, said he was improving his skill at collecting ground balls. “You have to get low and scoop up, really up,” he said. Not only did Nate bring his stick, he brought his gloves to camp, fresh from a season playing recreational lacrosse in North Myrtle Beach.

Ella Dorn, 11, also came to the camp with experience, but only from watching her brother Stockman play for the Waccamaw varsity. He doesn’t share tips, she said. Catching and throwing are the skills she finds most challenging. She was paired with Ella Marie Stanzel, 9, for a drill. Ella Marie noted that the girls’ sticks have a shallower pocket than the boys’ to slow the ball.

Out of the 54 players, there were seven girls, coached by Isabella Pecunes, a seventh-grader whose mother coaches the WHS girls varsity. The toughest skill to learn is cradling the ball, Isabella said. Twisting the head of the stick keeps the ball in the pocket while players run. While lacrosse is known as a boys sport, it’s catching on with the girls, she said.

“Boys are known to be tougher,” Ella Marie said. “They can hit each other.”

“Girls are smarter,” said Piper Radcliff, 10. “We beat them most of the time.”

Even with the increase in campers, Frechette said he was able to keep pace with his student coaches to keep a low ratio. “It’s a lot of fun this year,” Chilton said. “A lot more energetic.”

The Waccamaw lacrosse teams had their best seasons ever this year. The boys, in their fourth season, finished 7-7. The girls, in their third season, won their first game and finished 4-8. “I know there’s a lot of interest,” Frechette said.

Now that he’s got a growing base of young players, Frechette also wants to start an adult recreation league. That would be a place for the team’s current players to get some off-season experience playing graduates and perhaps a few parents. For them, the lesson will be the same one Temple Keyser said he’s learned: “You have to put effort into it and believe in yourself.”

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