Jersey Boys by McNutty
The Eastlake Wolves visited the Bellevue Wolverines on Tuesday. The game was circled on the calendar by both teams because it was the return of Chris O’Dougherty, head coach of Eastlake, and former assistant coach at Bellevue. OD, as he is known to all, is a coach well-liked by players and parents all over Puget Sound, as well as a celebrity member of Washington Stealth indoor professional lacrosse team. After three years and two State Championships at Bellevue, Coach OD was ready to take the reins of a new program. And tonight, his new boys faced his old boys for the first time.
The game pitted the (3-1) Eastlake Wolves, a team playing under a new system in Coach OD’s first year, against the (7-0) Bellevue Wolverines, a well-oiled machine that appears to be firing on all cylinders so far this season.
Things played out probably like the odds said they would. Bellevue brought too much to the table and ended up dominating with 18 goals and 13 assists. Eastlake tried to hang early but the bench got a little thin and the Wolverine machine ground them down. Bellevue won 18-5.
But the Eastlake story wasn’t on the field, the story is in program and where it is headed. Coach O’Dougherty has the Wolves having fun again, and he represents a commitment to doing things the right way. “The tendency is to over-emphasize the Varsity team right away”, said OD, “but programs succeed only when there’s a commitment to the Youth programs. We’ve got two teams now at each Youth level. That’s how you build a solid program.” OD’s philosophy is that you have to build lacrosse IQ into the kids in the youth programs, so that when they get to high school, they can focus on the specific details of each game.
To help him right the ship at the high school, O’Dougherty brought in fellow Jersey Boy Ian Kelly. Coach Kelly, a middie from Summit, NJ, played NCAA D1 lacrosse at Saint Josephs in Philadelphia. “I was excited to come out here and be a part of something big”, said Kelly, “and I’ve always wanted to coach with Chris.”
Unfortunately, the Wolves have become used to playing for new coaches. For some of the seniors, this represents the fourth staff they’ve had in their four years of high school. “Every year, they had to learn all new stuff,” OD shared, “I’m sure it was hard not to get discouraged, but they brought me a great attitude from day one.” And the great attitude has leaked over into their fan base. Their recent game against Eastside Catholic drew a raucous crowd of students, cheering and yelling and having a good time. There were plenty of parents in the stands, and for the first time in a while, unaffiliated lacrosse fans who were just showing up to see a good, meaningful game. “There’s such a natural rivalry here on the Plateau”, said OD, “you can’t help but get pumped to play Skyline and Eastside Catholic since they’re just down the road. And now we can all compete with each other.”
Eastlake has only appeared in one playoff game since bumping up to Division 1 in 2006, after winning the State D2 Championship. “We know this team can get back there,” OD said excitedly, “we’ve got our eye on winning the first D1 playoff game in school history.” Ultimately O’Dougherty’s hopeful he can extend his streak of bringing a state championship to every high school at which he’s coached.
The parents and supporters of Eastlake have shown they’re committed to providing the thankless hours and efforts necessary to build a topnotch lacrosse program. And while the boys came up a little short on this night at Bellevue, there is no shortage of enthusiasm for what the future holds.