Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/19/10
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series detailing the birth of the boys’ and girls’ lacrosse programs at St. Pius X.
Phillylacrosse.com conducted a question-and-answer session with St. Pius X girls coach Kirstin Mayberry and volunteer Jody Shollenberger – who helped get the program started – to recognize the team for its performance during its first season of play. Despite failing to win a game, the coaches credited the players for their determination and improvement.
Q: Jody, can you tell us about the process that led to St. Pius X deciding to field a varsity girls’ lacrosse team?
JS: “In 2007 I approached the St. Pius X (SPX) administration with a proposal to start a lacrosse program. The school had a rich history of athletic students and a light line-up of choices for spring sports. Enter lacrosse, the fastest growing sport in the country, the oldest sport in the country, and a team sport that can accommodate 30 or more students. The school provided a list of things that needed to be addressed in order to add lacrosse to the varsity sports roster. I shared the list with my daughter Amanda, who had played lacrosse since fourth grade and was playing club lacrosse with PA Express.”
Q: So your daughter Amanda helped?
JS: “Before entering St. Pius X Amanda asked me if I would help her start a lacrosse program for the girls at St. Pius X. She and I developed a plan where she would recruit the players and I would find a coach and address the school’s requirements. With the help of the US Lacrosse New Start program and guidance from experienced members of the Philadelphia lacrosse community I was able to address all the schools concerns and start a club program in the spring of 2008. Many of the boys were already playing in local club programs and we needed to bring the girls up to speed. Once both the girls and boys were ready we would satisfy one of the administrations requirements, a sport for both genders.”
Q: So what did this first spring look like?
JS: “The first spring was mostly practices with a few scrimmages. We used any open space or wall we could find around school and the community. In 2009 we played in a winter league, two tournaments, and eight scrimmage games with high school JV teams from all around the area. Next thing you know, the AD notifies me that the boys will have a team and we will both be added to the PAC-10 varsity lacrosse schedules for the 2010 season – Amanda’s senior year! At the 2010 spring coaches meeting the SPX administration noted that I had made the process of adding lacrosse as a school sport very easy for them and they greatly appreciated that. US Lacrosse made it easy for me!”
Q: What youth program feeds St. Pius? How long have your kids been playing lacrosse?
JS: “St. Pius X students come from all the school districts in the PAC-10 and may participate in their local youth lacrosse programs, notably Methacton Youth Lacrosse, 380 Lacrosse, and Aftershock Lacrosse. Only one of the Catholic elementary schools that feeds St. Pius X, St. Eleanor in Collegeville, has a girls’ lacrosse team in its CYO program. One of our seniors has played lacrosse for seven years, a few have played three years or less and most are playing for the first time.”
Q: Was there any thought of playing a JV schedule in year one?
JS: “Yes, we did propose playing a JV schedule during the first season. Discussions with our AD and the PAC-10 coaches led me to believe they would have us play a JV schedule in our first year. However, the majority of our players during the two club seasons were seniors and juniors and that factored heavily into the decision to make St. Pius X the 10th varsity team in the PAC-10. We had to double roster our underclassmen and the least experienced upperclassmen when we did play JV games. The week before the 2010 season officially started we lost six seniors that had played during both club years to other commitments.”
Q: Kirsten, what is your background in lacrosse – both playing and coaching?
KM: “I started playing lacrosse in 7th grade as a field player, and in high school (Pottstown) my head coach Andy Bachman convinced me to try goalie. I instantly fell in love with it. My junior year of high school I was selected to play on the National Tournament Team. After graduating high school, I decided to go to East Stroudsburg University where after red-shirting my freshmen year I was a 3-year starter.”
Coaching wise this is my first year as a head coach. Last summer I was an assistant coach for Penn Premier Girls’ Travel Team, and am now currently the assistant coach for Aftershock Girls’ Travel. I have coached numerous camps and clinics throughout the years with the Blue Diamonds Showcase being the best one, because of the level of competition these girls play at. Helping improve players and goalies around the area I also work with Lacrosse Evolution in Downingtown and served as the girls’ goalie coach. My introduction to the girls at St. Pius X came through my role as assistant field hockey coach in the fall of 2009.
JS: “To keep the SPX girls lacrosse club going while searching for a full time coach I called upon 15 years of experience coaching CYO programs and completed the USL Level 1 coaching program. I sponged everything I could from my daughter’s youth and club lacrosse coaches and used it in our practices. I focused on basics, skill building and conditioning. We all laughed a lot and had a lot of fun at practice.”
Q: How have the kids progressed?
KM: “From the beginning of the season until the end of the season the girls have improved tremendously. The first few weeks a majority of the girls could not even cradle a stick, let alone catch a ball. The girls came out and worked hard every single practice and listened to what us coaches had to say to them. We did not sugar coat anything with them, we told them when they did something right and we told them when they needed to do something better. That made them more determined and really pushed them to work on the basic skills needed for lacrosse.
Our goalie, sophomore Delaney Bowes, is a true success story. Delaney joined lacrosse a week later than everyone else due to basketball, and had no idea what she was walking into. She never played lacrosse before, let alone played goalie. We had Delaney start off as a defender because the concept was very similar to basketball and on the day of our first scrimmage we threw her into goal because we did not have a goalie yet. The first game she played in without ever touching a goalie stick or equipment she racked up 17 saves. Impressive for someone that had no experience. No matter what the score in the game was, she always had her head up and was encouraging her teammates to continue to do their best and keep pushing themselves. It would have been the easiest thing to give up, but she was a leader all season long, and helped improve her game and everyone else’s. She learned fast and could be heard directing the defense in many games in the later half of the season.”
Q: How would you see the program getting to the next level?
KM: “The program is going to get to the next level by these athletes doing extra. Its how any good player becomes great, they are at a disadvantage because of only having one year as a varsity program so they are going to have to work harder to get to the level that Boyertown, Pottstown, and Owen J. Roberts are on. These girls are very self motivated and have a competitive edge to them that I’ve never seen before. They won’t settle for being good, they expect more out of themselves and that showed this season with all the improvements they have made. Many of them are going to camps and clinics this summer and fall, which will help out tremendously.”
Q: How does the impending Kennedy-Kendrick merger with St. Pius impact your vision/plans for the future?
KM: “With the merger of KK and Pius the team is going to be stronger. The girls at KK know how to play and have all the skills down, which will help the Pius girls play to a higher standard. The harder the girls work in the off season the more of a contender they will be come the spring. With more experienced players the drills will be more advanced and the game will be played a lot faster.”
Q: How do you and the kids feel about the losses and how did you handle that?
KM: “The girls knew it would be a tough season, given that lacrosse is a skill sport and coordinating the efforts of 12 people to act as one unit, while still honing individual skills, was not something that would happen in one season. How they handled it was best summed up by the opposing coach in our last game, another double digit loss: “The way they are acting (laughing, whooping it up with one another, having fun) you’d never know they lost the game. That’s good. They like each other and must really love the game.”
“Our goal was to do our best, have fun, and prepare the underclassmen for the varsity lacrosse program at Pope John Paul II, where they will join girls from Kennedy-Kenrick who have played in the Philadelphia Catholic League. Their skill level and confidence has grown a considerable amount as a result of having this first varsity season and they know they can contribute to the success of the new team that will be formed at PJPII.”
Q: Jody, besides Kirstin, and Amanda, of course, who else has helped your team in getting up and going?
JS: “The most significant contributors to our upstart program were the girls, those who played through the craziness of the club seasons and the fearless group that played through the first varsity season. Inspiration, guidance, and a devotion to the true spirit of girls lacrosse came from Laurie Markel (Methacton) and Joe Tornetta (Great Valley). The how-to and financial support came from USL New Start program staff, PASLA (Pennsylvania Area Schoolgirls Lacrosse Association), Madison Morton, and the St. Pius X Athletic Association. Jackie Petery and Laura Patton (Ursinus player, Susquehanna Asst. Coach) were our first club season coaches and the Hill School supported our development with much needed scrimmages.
“A very special contributor to our team’s development was Jackie Kirby who shared her knowledge and love of the game in a way that truly changed the girls level of play. And, most importantly, Kirstin Mayberry and Dawn Yergey, who were there when we needed them most, to guide the St. Pius X girls lacrosse team through it’s alpha-omega season. It was Kirstin’s leadership and Dawn’s support that kept the girls going through a tough inaugural season with an enthusiasm and love for the game that will form a great foundation for the years ahead at JPII.
“And a special thanks to Greg Pollick and Mike Bryson for having the boys ready and waiting when the SPX administration agreed to add lacrosse to the spring line-up, as long as we could field teams for both boys and girls.”
Q: Tell us a bit more about how US Lacrosse and the PASLA helped.
JS: “The USL New Start program materials were excellent and made it easy to convince the school administration that adding lacrosse was going to have a positive impact. I used the slides, the coupons, the contacts and everything the staff suggested during our phone conversations to bring lacrosse to SPX. The organization and planning provided by USL is a big reason for the successful expansion of this great game.
“Participation in PASLA (Pennsylvania Area Schoolgirls Lacrosse Association) provided many opportunities for our program to grow and the willingness of the membership to share thoughts and ideas supported our efforts to get up and running. A great support network makes things so much easier when your just starting out!
Phillylacrosse.com: Jody, Kristin, thanks for taking the time to share your story with us and our readers.
St. Pius X Girls Lacrosse Roster
Kari Yaculak #19 Freshmen Defense
Megan Galloway #9 Freshmen Offense
Emily Colletta #3 Freshmen Offense
Shannon Mooney #12 Freshmen Midfield
Alexis Ruber #16 Freshmen Midfield
Courtney Bendig #18 Freshmen Offense
Lex Versak #14 Sophomore Midfield
Liv Kramer #20 Sophomore Midfield
Delaney Bowes #15 Sophomore Goalie
Devin Rauh #1 Sophomore Defense
Kira Shollenberger #13 Junior Midfield
Erin Wynne #8 Junior Defense
Kat Galloway #4 Junior Midfield
Erin Cox #2 Senior Defense
Amanda Shollenberger #17 Senior Midfield
Kelly Donahue #27 Senior Offense
Kaitlyn Kuklentz #6 Senior Defense
Brittany Spotts #24 Senior Offense
Jenn Heppler #7 Senior Defense
Kim Bleming #11 Senior Defense
Tags: St. Pius X