November 30, 2020
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It’s a family affair with Lacrosse

  • Rancho Cotate High School junior, Essie Bailey, with the help of teammate, Katie Banning, junior, fight to get past members of the Terra Linda High School during their game on Thurs., March 12. The teams played against each other at Cougar Stadium and Terra Linda defeated Rancho 16-3. Photo by Jane Peleti

By: Paul Matli
March 20, 2020

Rancho Cotate Girls Lacrosse Coach Maddy Smith fell in love with coaching her sophomore year at Rancho while being coached by her father. Now six years later, Smith gets to coach her younger sister, Mackenzie, with her father on the sidelines as her assistant. The Smiths are a lacrosse loving family who get to share their love and knowledge with other talented athletes.

“I fell in love with lacrosse my sophomore year,” Smith said. “I was a part of the first ever team here at Rancho and I all of a sudden just loved coaching because of my father. I just wanted to follow in his footsteps and when I got the offer to be the head coach I jumped at the opportunity.”

Smith is in her final season playing for Sonoma State and she is the captain of the women’s lacrosse team, while her sister Mackenzie is a freshman for the Cougars. Her brother is also a part of the Rancho boys’ team. According to Smith, it’s all lacrosse all the time. Now entering her third year as the head coach, Maddy is proud of how far the Rancho program has come. She has 31 girls on her roster, which is a lot for lacrosse. Smith’s goal for next season is to break the program into two teams, JV and Varsity. Though the Cougars started off 0-3 before being delayed due to the Coronavirus, Smith was pleased with how the girls are coming together.

“My goal this year was to rebuild the team and then next season break it into two teams,” Smith said. “I have some girls who are just lacrosse players, while some are soccer players, so I have a good mix this year.”

As for how the team is improving.

“I think we’ve done really well,” Smith said. “Even though we lost it didn’t feel like one to me as a coach, it felt like a win. Because I’ve seen the progression of the players that are moving up in their skill level, their going above and beyond to improve and I also saw what I like to call Rancho magic tonight.”

One of those magic moments was from Maddy’s sister, Mackenzie. She was a blaze all night for the Cougars and she capped off her great night with a goal late in the second half. Smith ran about 30 yards, spinning around a couple defenders, bouncing off one and scoring on a wrap-around attempt. This sent the Cougars sideline into a frenzy, even though they were behind at that point. Even in a 16-3 loss, the Cougars still had moments of brilliance.

Other players who scored were Essie Bailey and Marissa Kilmurray. These were two players Smith praised for their play. It’s clear watching the Cougars that they have players to build around and Smith’s plan, though delayed right now, looks to be the right one.

“I thought all three played well,” Smith said. “A freshman scored, which was my sister Mack, Essie scored and she’s a junior and finally Marissa, a senior. They are great players who played their hearts out.”

Maybe the most impressive performance for the Cougars was from goalkeeper Nycole Kirkland. 

Kirkland was incredible Thursday night for the Cougars. She had 18 saves on the night while facing 42 shots. For those who aren’t familiar with lacrosse, it’s a mix of soccer and hockey. In hockey, facing 42 shots is abnormal. A hockey rink is much smaller than a lacrosse field, so anytime a goalie in lacrosse sees 42 shots, it’s an incredible achievement to save that many.

“She had 18 saves tonight and played her butt off, it’s insane, Smith said. “As you can see at the end of the game the teams run out and get their goalie, which is probably the best part of a lacrosse game because she took all the shots and played her butt off.”

In a rebuilding season it’s performances like Kirkland’s that make the year worthwhile. Anytime a coach is trying to rebuild a program, they need players to lean on and Smith has a good mix of young and old. The older players will help the younger players get better and then the young players in two years can be the cornerstones. 

With the fear over COVID-19 and school being cancelled, it’s unclear what the future holds for Rancho girls’ lacrosse and other programs, but hopefully the seniors like Kilmurray will be able to play out their final year as high school athletes.