The Eagles of Klahowya lacrosse have landed

The Klahowya Secondary School girls lacrosse team is sporting a 3-0 record this season. The club was started by Hall of Fame coaches Rob Hawley and Laurie Usher and consists of ninth to 12th grade students in the Central Kitsap School District. - Mike Baldwin/staff photo
The Klahowya Secondary School girls lacrosse team is sporting a 3-0 record this season. The club was started by Hall of Fame coaches Rob Hawley and Laurie Usher and consists of ninth to 12th grade students in the Central Kitsap School District.
— image credit: Mike Baldwin/staff photo

Jacky Hennegan is new to Washington state, but she already has a grasp on the lacrosse scene in Kitsap County.

The Central Kitsap High School junior moved from Virginia to Silverdale last year after playing 10 seasons of east coast lacrosse, a popular sport in the region’s high schools.

It’s a different story for Washington. Klahowya students can letter in the sport, but the state’s high school athletic governing body, Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association, doesn’t recognize lacrosse. That hasn’t stopped Hennegan, and other Central Kitsap students from showing their talents on the field for Klahowya Secondary School.

“Lacrosse is treated a little differently here, but it’s great to have it as a club,” said Hennegan, who plays the attack position for undefeated Klahowya. “We get to meet people from different schools, and we have athletes who really want to play and are still developing a lot.”

The Eagles program was started by longtime high school coaches Laurie Usher and Rob Hawley, both members of the Washington State Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Their goal to provide lacrosse for high schoolers has come to fruition in the last few years as turnout rates and victories continue to increase.

“It’s growing like crazy out here,” Hawley said Monday. “Every year, it’s getting better here and it’s fun to watch us grow.”

Klahowya lacrosse is paid for by the school’s Associated Student Body, and opens the doors to students in grades 9 through 12 from the Central Kitsap School District. Athletes, both experienced and novice, can pick up a stick, go for the attack and score a goal for the Eagles’ boys or girls team.

“There are some who’ve played for a while, but there are also girls who just picked it up this year,” Hennegan said. “It’s really cool that you can just come out and compete, knowing you’ll be able to play and develop with the team for a common goal.”

This season, the boys and girls team each have 20 varsity starters. The teams’ turnout rates were approximately 60, Hawley said. That rate has increased each year since the start of Klahowya lacrosse.

Klahowya is one of four lacrosse club programs in the county. The other three include South Kitsap, Bainbridge and North Kitsap high schools. Bremerton High School does not have a lacrosse club.

For the first time since its inception in 2005, Klahowya has a junior varsity team due to high turnout numbers, a sign of the times for a successful program. Hawley said the added depth will benefit the growing club.

“Having that junior varsity team means you have the numbers,” he added. “There’s more competition for spots on the roster and kids are working harder for varsity spots, and that makes this program a little bit tougher.”

Klahowya senior Chris McGuire has played lacrosse since the eighth grade and wants to continue his career at college next year. He’s entering his fourth season with the boys team, and said the program is on the rise as more students come forward to play.

“We’re growing as a program,” McGuire added. “The fact we have a junior varsity team shows we’re improving.”

Both Klahowya squads are enjoying successful seasons so far, each sporting undefeated records. The boys are 2-0, while the girls have started the year 3-0.

Usher is currently in her third season with Klahowya. The Hall of Famer founded girls lacrosse in Washington state in 1987 before winning three state titles with Bainbridge. Usher brought her talents to Klahowya in 2005 and said Monday that she’s pleased with her team’s progress.

She believes the biggest win of the year so far was a 17-9 victory against heavy favorite Kennedy Catholic High School on the road March 17.

“We like our chances at state,” said Usher, who led Klahowya to within one game of the playoffs last year. “We beat Kennedy Catholic, who was the favorite to win state before we beat them.”


Lacrosse at a glance

The team sport uses a rubber ball and long stick with the objective of scoring more goals than the other team. Athletes do so by driving the ball into the opponent’s net. The United States’ east coast and Canada are lacrosse hotbeds.

Men play lacrosse with more equipment than women. The male athletes have helmets with facemasks and a chin strap. They also wear padded gloves for additional protection because the men’s game has more body-to-body contact. In contrast, the women are not required to wear helmets or gloves, excluding the goalkeeper who dons the protective wear.

The Klahowya boys team plays in the Washington High School Boy’s Lacrosse Association Division II. The league includes two divisions and 50 teams in the state. The girls also play D-II lacrosse in the state league.

The association has a 33-year history with more than 4,000 students competing for 154 boys and girls junior varsity and varsity teams, according to the governing body. High school lacrosse is played during a nine-week spring season that ends with state championships in May.

Lacrosse is not a sanctioned sport by the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association. However, the governing body’s representative assembly of 53 voters, comprised of high school representatives, is currently voting to decide whether lacrosse will return to high schools and junior high schools. The deadline is April 15. A decision will be announced April 17 and 18 when the executive board holds its annual meeting.

Mike Colbrese, an executive director with the WIAA, said Tuesday that lacrosse has been on the agenda for the past few years, but has only drawn “minimal support” from voters. Colbrese cited field availability and a lack of coaches and officials as concerns for sanctioning the sport.

In order for lacrosse to be considered, the member school requesting the sport must obtain a signature from its district’s superintendent, along with signatures from four other schools for sponsorship.

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