APTOS—For the first time in the 53-year history of Aptos High athletics, the girls’ lacrosse team will represent the blue and white in the program’s inaugural season this year.
With little to no experience across the roster, the Mariners will be faced with the task of competing night in and night out as they continue to learn an entirely new sport.
The program is being built from the ground up without much previous familiarities of the sport. However, one thing they do not lack is heart and numbers.
“Every one of them wants to come here and work,” said Aptos coach Stuart Mager. “You don’t see that everywhere, this is a special group.”
This will be Mager’s first year coaching at the high school level. But he has experience coaching at the county league and middle school levels including for his daughter Ariel Mager—a freshman at Aptos.
The Mariners’ first year coach expected to start with a small team group of around 12 girls. Mager was pleasantly surprised to have a roster of about 30.
His priority this season is developing players by giving everyone playing time and encouraging them to continue their love for lacrosse.
“We’ll take anybody,” Mager said. “You can come here with no experience and you are going to play. It’s a great opportunity for the girls, and to play in college.”
The establishment of the program occurred rapidly. Mager and soon-to-be player Kathleen Allari voiced their hopes of building a team.
They approached Athletic Director Travis Fox who played an instrumental role in the integration of the lacrosse team and all the logistics that come along with it.
However, the idea for a girls lacrosse team would not have come to fruition without the $5,500 in donations the players raised for gear and equipment.
The majority of players had little to no experience with the sport, yet they wanted to take part in being the first to build a team identity and community.
“I played lacrosse because I wanted to try something new and I wanted to do a sport with my friends, so we had never tried it before and wanted to give it a shot,” said junior Holly Hegna.
After practicing for several weeks, the Mariners saw action for the first time in program history. They fell to Monte Vista Christian in a 16-2 blowout on Feb. 23 as they were still learning basic fundamentals of the game.
A few practices later, the Aptos girls’ team managed to defeat the boys’ team in a scrimmage, 2-1, in a display of grit and effort, which points to the potential the girls have yet to unlock.
Just in the early stages of their first season, the Mariners have made leaps and bounds of improvement, showing an intrinsic desire to compete.
“We’ve learned how to work together as a team and communicate with everyone because there’s so many people on the field at once,” junior Fiona Carey said.
Throughout the first weeks of practice, severe rain storms staggered the Mariners’ ability to practice and play as much as the team had wanted to.
Still, they continue to work on fundamentals even in the rain if possible. Typically under normal circumstances there is a structural hierarchy among the team with the more experienced players leading the pack.
The Mariners are essentially led by freshmen when it comes to experience and the rest of players are moving at the same pace.
“I think that’s made us all a lot closer and I actually really like that,” said senior Lucy Bowman. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman, but we all just don’t know how to play.”
Still, the seniors have taken the initiative to ensure a positive and dedicated team culture.
Mariners goalie Gamble Kellermyre volunteered to be a human shield by protecting the net from hurtling projectiles. Her willingness to try a new position demonstrated to Mager the eagerness his players have to learn the game.
“I wanted to go down in the books as being the first-ever lacrosse team, I think that’s really cool and will hold a huge part of our Aptos history,” said senior Angela Rodriguez.
Apart from never having played lacrosse, several players didn’t have much experience playing any type of high school sports. So, a learning curve to account for the transition of their competition level was expected.
This is especially true because of the level of competition the Mariners are facing this year, which includes Monte Vista Christian and Scotts Valley of the Pacific Coast Athletic League.
Scotts Valley advanced to the Central Coast Section semifinals in 2022 and is the favorite to win the league this season, while Aptos will compete as an independent team.
The ultimate barometer of success this season won’t be found in the wins and loss column, but rather what the players take away from their experience. Mager also wants to build the foundation for future players to enjoy girls lacrosse at Aptos.
“I just hope it lives on,” he said. “I hope girls see it and next year we get more, and it keeps going.”
Aptos will host Soquel High in non-league action on April 27 at 4:30pm.