Freeport Area girls lacrosse continues to find improvement

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Monday, May 1, 2023 | 11:45 AM


Freeport Area girls lacrosse mustered two wins this season and is looking for more. Although they have a losing record, their two wins account for a program high for a single season.

The Yellowjackets have a young nucleus and continue to be more competitive as the season progresses.

The team started with eight players for the opening practice. Now, the Yellowjackets have added more to their hive and expanded to 17 girls, including three from Armstrong as part of a co-operative agreement.

Out of the 17 players, only six had played lacrosse previously.

“There were a lot of growing pains, but they’re pretty good,” coach Ed Smith said. “They’re all getting along well, and they’re working together. They feed off each other. That’s what makes it fun to coach them.

“It’s fun being a coach for these girls. They are tough, as tough as nails. These girls played in just the most miserable weather, and they didn’t complain. They just kept doing what they had to do.”

Saige Smith, Lillie Snow and Ava Dreher have led the charge. Smith is the team’s leading scorer and tallied six goals and two assists in a 12-10 victory against Yough. Smith and Snow also had career highs in that game with six points each.

“Ava, Lillie and Saige, they feed off each other really well,” Coach Smith said. “We got some other girls that are doing really well. Arabella (Burtt), she’s from Armstrong, she’s been doing really well. She did really good Monday against Butler and last Friday against Yough. Briley (Lucas), she’s doing great. We have Lorelei (Buterbaugh), we got a lot of good players.”

Coach Smith mentioned the impact the experienced players have on the newcomers. The team’s captains are Smith, Snow and Nicole Venendaal, the most experienced player among the Yellowjackets.

“The senior girls are helping the newer girls a lot,” Smith said. “They get through them with questions and they pay attention. They’re good kids and are all having fun and laughing.”

Saige Smith, Coach Smith’s daughter, is among the most tenured. She said she enjoys building relationships with the team, and that’s what helps them improve.

“My coaches have pushed me a lot as well as my teammates, and I love having new teammates because they get to learn off of me,” she said. “I feel like it helps them a lot to watch people with experience.”

Coach Smith added the team is filled with coachable players who are quick learners.

When the veteran players thrive, the rest of the team gets in on the action and vice-versa.

“If a shooter is having a good day, just like basketball we try to feed them the ball,” Coach Smith said. “Lillie, Saige and Ava, if one of them has a hot hand we’d rather get it to that hot hand.

“We had other girls score that never score, so that was awesome. We had Kianna (Armstead) score last night, and Monday night, we had Abby Watson score. Then our goalie Abby Legin, she’s just been insane. She’s been just fantastic. And she’s only a ninth grader who never touched a stick before March.”

Saige Smith is proud of her squad for persevering in lacrosse, a sport that requires skill and offensive and defensive strategies.

“It feels really good, especially because we have new people and they’re just coming along so well,” Snow said. “It’s really fun, and I just enjoy it so much.”

Snow also enjoys seeing the newcomers thrive, and it is one of her favorite parts of being on the lacrosse team.

“When some of the new girls get their first goal, it’s really exciting for them and also for us,” Snow said.

“It shows how far they have come along in so short of time.”

Coach Smith and coach Dan Snow have watched the team improve throughout the year. Nevertheless, they aren’t the only ones assisting the team. Abby Legin’s brother, Nate, a member of Freeport’s boys lacrosse team, also helps coach the team during practice.

“At the beginning of the season, he was helping us a lot too and he’s probably one of the better players on Freeport boys,” Smith said. “I’ve tried to recruit all the knowledge I can muster up from other people because we’re not experienced, lacrosse coaches.”

Coach Smith said that his impact has helped the team soar to new heights. Nate Legin helped implement defensive strategies, including zones and simple defensive strategies. This led to improvement during second-half play for the Yellowjackets.

Nate’s sister, Abby Legin is the team’s goaltender. She is only a freshman and has excelled throughout the season.

“She’s going to do so well through the next three years,” Smith said. “She is just so so coachable. Such a sweetheart. She’s fearless. And like I said, having her brother Nate, helping us in coaching her just, it’s been amazing because we had no goalie. Without a good goalie like her, we’d be out of luck.”

Coach Smith said he enjoys every moment with the team, and he sees how close the lacrosse team is with each other.

“We want it to be fun,” he said. “They’re fun. On their way home, they can get beat 20-0 and on our bus, they’re laughing and smiling and carrying on. … With pretty much every team that we play, they’re out-skilled, we are way out-skilled, so we just got to go in there and do our very best and learn and keep getting better.

“They’re all hard workers. That’s one thing. We don’t have to push them for that.”

Coach Smith added he wants the team to pull out some more victories during this milestone season.

“We’re just going to keep plugging along, keep trying to get better, and hopefully, we’ll get another win,” he said. “That would be great. I’d love to see another one by the end of the year.”

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