O'Fallon: Sports

OTHS girls lacrosse will lean on youth as it navigates 'one of the toughest schedules in the state'

What O’Fallon’s girls lacrosse team lacks in experience this season they figure to compensate for with talent.

OTHS graduated eight seniors in 2017 and lost two more to transfer. However, the Panthers feature a highly capable group of players this spring.

“Losing that many athletes is always a little concerning, but the returning athletes are exceptionally talented,” said coach Rob Garrison, who team finished 10-6 in 2017. “Although we will be a much less experienced team this year, I think that the talent of this 2018 team will lead to a lot of wins.”

While the Panthers boast plenty of burgeoning individuals, with so many personnel losses from 2017, depth is a concern.

“We will definitely need the girls to dig deep this year,” he said. “Conditioning will be very important.”

Besides their talent, Garrison said the draw will represent a team strength. Garrison explained the draw is the “jump ball” that starts each game and happens after every goal to determine procession.

Of note, O’Fallon had two of the state’s best draw control specialists last season — senior Alexis Gabb, ranked No. 3, and sophomore Maddy Dalonzo, ranked No. 10.

“Those two are incredibly hardworking, and midfield coach Jordan Pate has done a great job preparing these two,” said Garrison, who has been the head coach since 2014. “Winning the draw determines procession — it is a lot easier to win games when you control the ball.”

Additionally, Gabb and fellow senior midfielder Lizzy Bellina were two of the state’s most productive scorers last season, according to Garrison, and he expects an even higher output from the duo this spring. Meanwhile, senior defenders Reid Ellerbrake and Leah Walton will anchor the defense.

Garrison also figures junior Olivia Branz and sophomore Kaylee Grout to provide goal-scoring punch.

Junior Jess Camp, meanwhile, returns in goal.

The Panthers again face a difficult schedule in 2018, battling a full slate of the area’s top teams. OTHS opens the campaign at 5:30 p.m. March 19 at Incarnate Word Academy.

“We consistently have one of the toughest schedules in the state,” Garrison said. “We will play all nine out of the top 10 teams from 2017. We will also be hosting one of the best teams from Indiana (Noblesville) and a great team from Chicago (Barrington).”

All in all, Garrison has a simple, concise team goal for 2018: Have fun.

Junior Riley Maher was diagnosed with cancer recently, and Garrison hopes the team, in turn, appreciates their blessings.

“We need to enjoy being on the team and being around each other,” he said. “Being able to play sports really is a blessing that sometimes we take for granted. I think Riley’s situation will really allow the team to appreciate our blessings.

“She will hopefully be receiving her last treatment this (past) weekend. We hope she will be able to get some playing time by the end of the season.”

O’Fallon’s girls lacrosse team started as a club program in 2008, and first began competing as a high school affiliated program in 2009.