At the beginning of preseason practices, second year head coach Rob Garrison faced a double-edged sword.
Many of the players who had led the Lady Panther lacrosse team to a successful campaign in 2014 were no longer on the field—nine to be exact, eight of whom were starters. On the flip side, those who were working on the drills included several stalwart returnees and a significant number of players whose offseason work had noticeably improved the returning talent pool.
“We are very young overall; however, this group has the most potential of any of the teams I have worked with over my six years in the program,” Garrison said. “We have, arguably, one of the best players in the state to lead our team and return a good mix of attackers and defenders who proved themselves on the varsity level last spring.”
Senior captain Jordan Pate—a midfielder by trade—will be the catalyst for a team Garrison believes has potential. A great stick handler, Pate averaged four goals per game last spring and Garrison believes his senior leader is capable of even better things in her final high school season. Flanking Pate on the attack will be another veteran scoring threat, junior captain Sara Padilla, who produced a three goal per game average last spring. The one-two offensive punch provided by Pate and Padilla will be augmented by several rising stars on the roster including junior Kayla Smith.
Defensively, O’Fallon will rely on returning starters Dru Tarin and Sarah Khalid-Giddings to set the tempo. Both players—Tarin a junior and Khalid-Giddings a sophomore—were integral player for Garrison in 2014 and have improved physically and technically to the point he is confident their play will positively impact O’Fallon’s overall defensive effort.
“We are changing defense into more of a transition attack, giving our midfielders more chances to attack,” Garrison explained. “Our O’Fallon girls team has always been predicated on the concept of defense first and that will continue this season.”
Annie Roberts and Hannah Muren were also mentioned as keys to the Lady Panthers’ defensive success. Anchoring the defensive effort will be freshman goalkeeper Cameron Harbour—a player from whom Garrison expects big things.
“Cameron, although a freshman, is a veteran lacrosse player and brings a steadying influence to our defense,” explained Garrison. “She has played youth and club lacrosse against top rate competition, so playing against high school athletes will not affect her. She has great skills and experience and will be a definite asset as the season progresses.”
The OTHS girls’ squad will kick off their 2015 spring season next week with back-to-back road games against Ursuline Academy and Marquette. The Lady Panthers first home contest is scheduled for Tuesday, March 31, vs. Lafayette. Facing most of the top teams in Missouri and Illinois, the Panthers will have their work cut out for them.
“Last year’s schedule was tough, but this year our schedule is tougher,” Garrison said. “It will be a trial by fire for our kids, but I am confident that we will be able to compete.”