Life After Leslie

18 years. That’s how long I’ve been around, and that’s how long I’ve lived in this town. It also happens to be the number of seasons that Leslie Frank was the coach of the Westwood High School girl’s varsity lacrosse team. I was one month old when Leslie coached her first game in 1999, and I was eight when our paths first crossed. Ever since then I’ve learned more about myself and this sport than I could have ever imagined. Over ten years I’ve spent more time at camps, clinics, and practices ran by Leslie Frank than I think I’ve spent with my own family. Kidding. Kind of. As many of you may know, the luxury of having one of the most renowned coaches in the state around is not something I have anymore. There had been rumors that Leslie was on her way out for a few seasons now. People talked about how she was going to leave when we were freshmen, and then sophomores, and then juniors. But that’s all I thought it was; just talk. I didn’t think that one fall day at a youth practice and she would pull Haley Connaughton and I aside and say,  “I’m sorry girls, I’m not coming back next year.” For a second I thought she was joking. I looked at Haley and we were both at a loss for words. With just that one sentence, everything I had ever known about Westwood Lacrosse was up in the air and it’s future was in question. I think the reason why I held it together was because I was thinking about the person who could take over such a high power position: Margot. Margot Spatola had been our assistant coach for five years now, and she knows how our team plays and how we operate. Margot is going to take over, I thought, everything will be more than okay.

Westwood Lacrosse after their 2016 D1 State Championship Victory

Everything is more than okay, but it wasn’t that way for a few months. Taking on a head coaching position is a big decision, especially a head coaching position that has been held by a woman who has won eight state championships and has sent countless of players to play in college at some of the top programs in the country. There were big shoes to fill, but our team knew Margot could do it. We immediately began to pester her about taking the position but she had just got a new job teaching in Wellesley, and there were a lot of things she had to consider before she was ready to make this commitment. Thankfully, she eventually took it, and I think it didn’t hurt that we had 15 returning players who were begging her to.

The beginning of our season didn’t start off the way we hoped it would. For the last three years we have had the luxury of undefeated seasons, or just one or two losses, so starting my final lacrosse season off with a loss to the Norwell (the reigning Division II state champions) on top of a 12 goal loss to Needham the week before wasn’t the greatest feeling ever. People began to talk. Everywhere I went I would hear whispers of “I didn’t know Westwood was going to be bad this year” and “Wow, I guess it’s true that they were only good because of Leslie.” While our school and those in the lacrosse community looked at these two losses as negative things, myself and the 21 other girls on my team did not. We were not going to let this be the end of the legacy Leslie built, the end of what girls before us built. We came to practice the next day ready to go to work, ready to fix the mistakes, and ready to improve our game one step at a time. We weren’t going away.

We have done things the exact same way for almost two decades, and coming into the season with a new coach nobody really knew what to expect. We had new running tests, our practices were at a new time, there was a new dynamic throughout our team that I personally have never experienced before and I didn’t know how I was going to react to it all. But even though we were going through all these changes, and working out how everything was going to flow together, I never doubted the ability and resilience of the girls on my team. We may have a new coaching staff, and a few minor details may have changed about our schedule, but nothing has changed about our team. I’ve never met a group of people with more heart, and determination than the 21 girls I’m lucky enough to call my teammates. Yes we had a change in coaching, but the the values, and everything we stand for and look to uphold as a team, and as a program remain the same. The thing about Westwood Lacrosse is that it isn’t just about excelling in our sport: my coaches and teammates work so hard to make sure that we are the best lacrosse players we can be, but also so we are the best people we can be, on and off the field. In our practices we learn to be disciplined; in our games we learn to overcome challenges and work. We learn from each other everyday, and I plan to continue to do that even after the last game I get to play for my town.

I’ve been really lucky to have such decorated coaches practically in my own backyard for years now. Under Leslie Westwood was one of, if not the, most successful lacrosse program in the state for almost two decades. Under Margot, I truly believe that this program has the potential to live up to and exceed the incredible things that the talented players accomplished before us. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, and we are lucky enough to have extremely talented girls who are always looking to improve their game on and off the field. As a senior, and as a captain, seeing the younger girls put forth their full effort and challenge every player on the field to be the best they can be is something that I take pride in. Everyone on our team wants to honor the classes before us that were so successful, and it is a great thing to see the underclassmen trying to do that for us. If anyone is worried about this team and where we will go, I would advise you to change that. Will we win another state championship? Nobody can predict that. Will we do everything we can to get back to the state championship and come out on top? Absolutely. Every year is different, and this year is no exception; however, we came into this season with perceived vulnerability with the whole state looking to knock us down. With the start we had some people may think we have already been dethroned, so we have to work even harder everyday to prove them wrong.

 

-Shea Farrell

 

 

 

Edited by Brett Middleton

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