Turnover has been the name of the game for Churchill’s girl’s lacrosse team the past few years.
“We’ve never really had a coach, like a real coach,” said senior captain Kelsey Strawn. That changed this winter when Churchill changed coaches for the third time in as many years.
Louisa Feve (Churchill ’02) was enjoying her first year out of college and her new job as an accountant for Price, Waterhouse, Coopers. Feve played basketball and lacrosse at Washington and Lee University for four years, after playing both sports as a student at Churchill. She was looking into different coaching possibilities in the area when she got a call from an old friend.
“I was driving home from work one day and [Churchill athletic director Pat Fisher called] and said, ‘So, do you want to come to Churchill?’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely,’” said Feve.
Feve has kept her day job and is managing to balance her obligations even during the busy tax season.
"It just so happened that the clients I have right now are pretty relaxed; I just have to put in eight hours [each work day] and then I can come over here," said Feve.
Fisher pursued Feve because of her familiarity with her having coached Feve in basketball while she was a student at Churchill. Feve, a four-year starter on the lacrosse and basketball teams, helped Fisher lead the Bulldog girl’s basketball team to the 2002 Maryland 4A state championship. Fisher said that Feve is a remarkable, natural athlete whose knowledge of the game belies her relatively young age.
“I watched her coach [basketball] in summer leagues before, so I knew her coaching style was something the kids would react favorably to,” Fisher said.
That style is one that Fisher said develops a close rapport with her players through encouragement and positive feedback, said Fisher. Fisher said that Feve doesn’t get down on her players and instead shows them their mistakes and how to improve.
“She shows the girls that hard work pays off because she works hard,” Fisher said. “It’s all positive feedback… I’ve always found that players react favorably to that.”
Feve’s players said that they see her youth and wealth of recent playing experience as significant attributes.
“It’s really nice to have someone that’s just coming out of the game that has experience in lacrosse these days on a higher level,” said senior captain Maggie Langan.
“She seems to know what she’s doing; she has a lot of good drills,” said Strawn. “Since she’s like a young girl we can obviously relate to her. She knows how to get across to us.”
THOUGH SHE HAS no assistant coaches, Feve will get plenty of help from Langan and Strawn and Lea Biciocchi, the team’s other senior captain.
“Their experience makes them leaders by example,” Feve said. The team’s success will also depend on contributions from sophomore Angela Biciocchi and junior Lauren Plotnik, who Feve said are likely the team’s two best athletes.
The team lost several seniors from last year’s team including standout Jamie Grossman.
“We have a lot of girls [who] this is their first time on varsity, I think that we might have half of our starting line returning,” said Langan, who has started in goal since her freshman year.
With time, practice, and familiarity with one another, Feve and her players expect good things.
“I think that we might be a team that’s kind of underestimated,” said Strawn. “We’ve been working really hard at practice learning to communicate with each other,” she said. “The freshmen and sophomores are intimidated [because] they don’t want to be loud, they don’t want to embarrass themselves. But they’re quickly learning that that’s perfectly acceptable and wanted in lacrosse.”
Strawn said that Langan is helping them learn to be vocal. At a recent practice Langan pulled one of the freshmen aside and made her practice yelling as loud as she could.
“Maggie, she’s very, very loud,” Strawn said. “It’s necessary; it’s going to help us.”
LESS THAN A YEAR AGO Feve was playing in the defensive midfield for the Washington and Lee Generals. Today she’s coaching her high school alma mater Bulldogs. The leap, while sudden, has also been welcome.
“I definitely miss playing a lot… but it’s cool to be able to give back,” Feve said.
The leap is a learning curve for both Feve and her players. In their season opener last Thursday against Damascus, a team that Feve said has expectations to go far in the state playoffs, the Bulldogs blew a chance at a major upset. Churchill led by five in the second half but blew the lead, giving up the tying goal with 14 seconds left in regulation before giving up three goals in overtime and losing 14-11.
“I think we were surprised at how well we were doing… then they kind of lost focus,” Feve said. The offense stopped creating scoring opportunities and began turning the ball over and the defense, which Feve said played terrifically in the first half, couldn’t handle the constant pressure they faced in the second half.
“We were up by a lot… [but] I think we came out the second half a little overconfident,” said Langan.
Learning how to close out games when they are playing from ahead will come with experience, said Feve — and practice.
“Just setting the tone in practice that we need to be disciplined all the time — and confident,” Feve said.
“I saw some great things in the first half, but they kind of lost their focus in the second half,” said Fisher. “Louisa will show them how to stay focused and close and win,” said Fisher.
“I look forward to great things from Louisa because she has such a great rapport with the girls. I don’t expect to see very many losses from her in the future.”
Langan said that the coaching turnover of the past few years has taught the girls how to be successful through adversity, but that it will be nice for the team to have some stability. That it is with someone who is so familiar with their program makes it even better.
“With how great she did at Churchill, we know we’re in good hands,” said Langan. “We trust her judgment.”