Charlotte Boal will never forget watching the Kenmore boy’s lacrosse team a couple years ago.
She instantly fell in love with the beauty and speed of the game. She desperately wanted a chance to hit the turf and play too.
This spring, thanks to Charlotte Boal, countless other Ken-Ton district girls had their chance to play varsity lacrosse.
“My sophomore year I went to a guys lacrosse game and I got super interested in it, not knowing it was totally different from girls lacrosse,” Boal said. “So I was like ‘sell why doesn’t Kenmore West (girls) have one?’
So I set up a meeting with Brett Banker the athletic director and got the ball rolling.”
The Lady Devil Dogs put the wraps on a successful debut season as they went 10-6 overall, 7-3 in Conference 4 and made it to the Section VI semifinals before falling to eventual sectional champion Lancaster.
Banker guided Boal through the process of acquiring equipment and finding people who would be interested in coaching.
Boal also put the call out to girls and was met with an incredibly positive response.
“I set up a meeting to see what girls would want to play and about 40 girls actually showed up to the meeting,” Boal said. “It grew in interest pretty fast.”
Boal said assistant coach Heather Wolf, who was her P.E. teacher at Kenmore Middle, was also instrumental in pulling all of the moving parts together.
Kenmore head coach Natalie Alvut credits Bowl for being the driving force behind the scenes to make this program a reality.
“She is a remarkable human being,” Alvut said. “Everything that I know about her just blows me away. Her ability to stand up and fight for what she wants and her determination and perseverance are incredible especially for someone that age. For her to take so much time out and put that effort into getting this program started is just incredible. If she ran for President one day, I’d vote for her! She has that amazing spark and she’s gonna be an amazing leader her entire life no matter what she does.”
The team was actually supposed to get off the ground last spring, but those plans obviously came to a halt when the Covid-19 pandemic out an end to the high school sports season.
“We were planning on starting as an NFL team last year,” said Boal. “We had about a week of practices with the 40 girls that showed up. Then suddenly it got cancelled.”
Boal said losing their shot to play last year just strengthen the resolve of girls to come back and make this season happen. To not let this dream fade away.
On May 21, when they stepped onto the turf at Sparky Adams Field for that first game ever it wasn’t so much about the final score. Just being on the field was a win.
“It was the best feeling ever,” Boal said with a smile. “It felt so surreal cause I worked for so long to get it to happen and finally winning our first game, it was a crazy feeling.”
Happily, it wasn’t just a moral victory about finally being able to play. It was also an official notch in win column as Kenmore topped Depew 9-4.
The way the girls came together so quickly speaks to their dedication to the team and each other.
They had a mix of very athletic girls who excelled in ice hockey, soccer and other sports, but there was very little pure lax experience. Most girls had just picked up a lax stick for the first time in their lives. To be as successful as they were, is a testament to the work ethic of each girls and their never-ending desire to get better.
“We all just thought that this would just be a learning experience this year cause we’re really just feeling out the sport,” Boal said. “We didn’t expect any wins. I thought maybe we’d win one game. Coming in, winning as many as we did, and seeing how well the girls picked up the sport so fast. It was so impressive to see how great of an athlete everyone was.”
Boal went on to say success wasn’t by chance. Girls regularly stayed after practice to work on what they learned. Or would work on their own time at home. They did what they could at every turn to sharpen their skills.
Alvut said the girls absolutely displayed a thirst to keep on learning. They might not have the pure lacrosse experience of other programs, but they all have the basic work ethic and understanding of what it takes to succeed. Those are the traits, Alvut said, that are transferable to any sport and root of all success.
“They put a lot of effort into learning the game,” Alvut said. “And the great thing about having these multi-sport athletes who are already in phenomenal shape is you get to just focus on the basics. We didn’t have to spend a whole lot of time at practice sprinting or working on stamina and endurance.”
Alvut said obviously, there was some focus on conditioning, but because the girls were already in top shape coming in, it allowed her the coaches to focus on the fundamentals of the game like passing, catching, cradling and shooting.
Even when they were on a Covid pause during preseason, girls were tuned into team zoom meetings and did their practice assignments without any issues.
Along with Boal, the team was also led by fellow senior captain Olivia Velarde.
Sisters Carolyn (sophomore) and Isabelle (eighth) Bourgeault, junior Carissa Buyea and sophomore Emiliana Cassillo, who led the team in scoring, were also key components who will all be back next season.
The biggest thing Alvut said was the girls had fun. After a spring of no sports and a stressful school year full of distractions and changes, seeing the smiles and pure joy on the faces of her girls was the best.
They had fun. And fun is what will keep girls coming back and build this program up. Girls will spread the word and hopefully draw friends into the team.
“Our approach was everybody is welcome,” Alvut said. “No matter what your skill is right now as long as you’re willing to try come on out. We tried to keep it light hearted throughout the season and not really focus on winning. My goal was not to get to sectionals. My goal was to create a good group and have them love the sport and have them fall in love with it where they are gonna come back.”
Boal agreed saying that the girls understood they were apart of something special. They cherished every minute playing and every second together.
“Girls fell in love with the sport like I did,” said Boal. “Everyone just saw how it was played and was so happy and interested in how the sport is supposed (to be played). So I think that made them work harder.”