Girls lacrosse team prepares to dominate the field


Tricia Totty

Defender Kendra Sandlin (12) boxes out her opponent as she scoops up a ground ball and begins the transition to offense. The Spartans participated in the LaxFest tournament in Louisiana on February 13 and defeated CE Byrd High School 13-5.

Captain Cassidy Jones (11) takes a free position shot after a penalty had been called on the other team. Positioned on the center hash mark of the 8-meter, she aims low and scores one of her seven goals in the game against CE Byrd High School. (Tricia Totty)

The sounds of whistles and “I got ball!” ring out over Sea Isle Park as the girls lacrosse team goes through preseason practices. Every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, each team member knows that the work done now will help them during games.

Because of their club status, players will be participating in the Tennessee Girls Lacrosse Association for the 2021 spring season as Spartans Lacrosse. With COVID-19 guidelines for practice from the US Lacrosse organization, new players have been able to learn the sport safely and efficiently. 

“Starting out, I didn’t understand a thing about lacrosse … but now I’m starting to get the hang of the basics of the game,” Summer Cherry (9) said. “I still make mistakes, of course, but recently, I’ve been able to realize what I’m supposed to do and what I may be doing wrong.” 

Thanks to assistance from six coaches, five of whom joined for the 2021 season, practices have been more constructive, and players receive the attention head coach Todd Jones has always thought they deserved. 

“My personal goal is to be super encouraging to those younger girls,” head junior varsity coach Sydney Jones said. “They talk about how scared they are of the older girls and how scared they are to try things, and I think the best way to improve [the team] is to really encourage them and get them to feel more confident earlier so that it shows out on the field during games.” 

Coach Sydney Jones, who oversees the junior varsity team with coach Avery Rooker, began her interest in lacrosse as a goalie for White Station during the beginning years of the program and has noticed a significant improvement in the attitudes and skill levels of players as a coach. 

“You guys are so much better,” coach Sydney Jones said. “I felt like I was playing on a lacrosse team with a bunch of girls who … never seemed into it, and it never felt as friendly when I played that it held us back so much that we weren’t winning games … Now girls actually care and want to win games, and you guys are so far beyond us.”

Because of the evolution of the program’s culture and reputation, three coaches came to White Station from Houston High School’s lacrosse staff to be a part of a team that is constantly improving. 

“The coaches and I decided it was time for us to make a change, and we felt that White Station had developed and come so far over the past five, six years,” coach Mack McKinney said. “We wanted to come help out coach Todd and help the program grow even further.” 

The necessary adjustments to preseason practices allowed players to bond and concentrate their efforts to become better lacrosse players despite the distancing and slight drop in the number of girls on the team. 

“The biggest changes have been that we’ve had less time to practice and had to change the structure of practice for a bit because of Covid,” captain Grace Garrett (12) said. “Having less girls is a big change, but honestly, I think it’s been good for the team as a whole. We are a lot closer as a team than in other years, and everyone that’s playing genuinely wants to play.”

Already off to a strong start, the 2021 season stands out in how upperclassmen have solidified the varsity starting roster.   

Captain Emily Totty (12) rushes the ball downfield after causing a turnover. As a midfielder, it is her responsibility to win draws and play offensively and defensively on both ends of the field. (Tricia Totty)

“We’re old … and we don’t have any excuses,” coach Todd Jones said. “We don’t have any freshmen or any first-year players on our varsity for the first time … When it looks like you’re going to start eight seniors and four juniors, there’s a lot of experience there … We have very few excuses to not perform.”

New plays, consistent practices and stronger stick skills have entailed high expectations from coach Todd Jones. 

“I’m kind of playoffs or bust,” coach Todd Jones said. “I don’t think there’s any reason when you go look in our schedule … that we shouldn’t be a top-five team in the state, so that’s my expectation … If you win that one playoff game, next thing you know, you’re in the final four, and I would love to land in that final four game.”

With dedicated players on both the varsity and junior varsity levels, McKinney is more than ready to turn games into victories. 

“I’m looking forward to my very first game as a White Station coach,” McKinney said. “My first game is always a nerve wrecker anyway, but with the new program, I’m just excited … I want to fight for us to be good … and I want to continue to change the perception of [Spartans Lacrosse] inside the league because we’re going to command respect. When you get better year over year, that’s what you do. You command it, and people start to give you the respect you deserve.”