Lincoln-Sudbury girls’ lacrosse coach Bowen Holden knows just how beneficial a road trip can be for a team.
Lengthy bus rides and overnight trips are commonplace in collegiate lacrosse, where Holden has spent much of her adult life, a decade at Georgetown University as a player and assistant coach before a seven-season stint as head coach at Boston College from 2006 to 2012. Some of her best memories in the sport came from those experiences.
So when the opportunity came for her team to take a trip during April vacation week, Holden didn’t think twice.
“We spend so many hours on bus rides [at the collegiate level] and that’s where so many memories are made,” said Holden, whose has coached at L-S since 2014. “I wanted to give this same opportunity to a group of girls who work so hard every single day.”
The idea was formulated last fall, as the players began to fundraise. They didn’t know what exactly they were raising money for, but knew it was for something big. Fundraising ranged from running clinics to selling t-shirts to holding a fundraiser at Bertucci’s. Friends of L-S Girls Lacrosse, a non-profit organization, was established with the goal of raising $10,000.
The announcement of what the team would be doing and where it would be going came at the preseason meeting in February. Holden told the girls they would be going to Pennsylvania during the week of April vacation.
“I think we were all surprised that it was Pennsylvania,” said senior Katharine Yenke. “I’m going to college in Pennsylvania so I was excited about it because I wanted to get to know it better.”
Yenke and her teammates got to a taste of the area with a trip to Philadelphia, visiting sights like the Rocky Steps and the Reading Terminal Market. But the highlight of the trip came before the girls even arrived in Pennsylvania.
The trip to Philadelphia came with a pit stop in New York City. In addition to some sightseeing, the team visited P.S. 76, a middle school in Harlem. The school’s lacrosse program featured about 15-20 girls, most of whom were new to the game. The girls from Lincoln and Sudbury worked with the girls from Harlem on their skills and technique. The girls from Harlem returned the favor by teaching the L-S girls new dance moves.
Holden saw the experience as beneficial for all, and considered it the highlight of the trip.
“I think it was very well-received by the girls in Harlem and I think it was very well-received by our girls,” said Holden. “I think there were very valuable lessons to be learned on both sides.”
Holden recalls the small school-yard field the girls played on. There were no lines marking the field, a large number students crowded in a small building that was a fraction of the Sudbury school that houses more than 1,600 students. Many of the kids relied upon public transportation to get to the school, some spending as long as an hour on the train.
L-S senior goaltender Mikayla Ward remembers getting off the bus surrounded by big buildings, very few trees, and the hustle and bustle of the big city. A different world compared to Sudbury.
“Playing [at L-S], we have three gorgeous turf fields and locker rooms and top-notch equipment,” said Ward. “I thought it was interesting to go and it’s this huge city and there’s buildings all around you and it’s this little park [where we played].”
What stuck out to Ward was how much fun the girls had, how much they enjoyed life, the upbeat attitude they brought to the field. The two sides bonded in their love for lacrosse.
The other highlight came in the form of a lopsided loss.
The Warriors faced Agnes Irwin, a nationally-prominent program that’s among the best in Pennsylvania. A 15-4 loss, the first of the season for L-S, was a tale of two games.
In the first half, Holden watched a team she hadn’t seen all season. Playing tentative. Second-guessing decisions. Unsure of themselves.
After a halftime in which Holden tried to get her team to ‘shift mentally’, things slowed down for the Warriors in the second half. Holden saw her team playing with more confidence, winning draw controls, moving the ball, and playing aggressive.
“I think there was a lot that we learned, one being we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Holden. “We might be [undefeated] in Massachusetts [at the time] but we’ve got a lot of work to do in order to reach the heights of some of these teams ranked nationally.”
The growth of the team on the field was matched by that off the field, not that the team wasn’t close-knit already. But the time spent together, the conversations they had, and sharing space with one another brought the team even closer.
“We were really close before the trip,” said senior Clara Bisson. “But going on the trip just make [the team bond] take another step.”
Holden is a coach who preaches process. She doesn’t expect her team to be where it wants to be at the end of April, nor is it part of the master plan. Peaks should come late in the season, while early and mid-season valleys are teaching moments. The trip didn’t come without the teaching moments.
“Everything is about process, whether it’s on the field or off the field, x’s and o’s or team formation,” said Holden. “It’s a marathon not a sprint and it takes time. I think they’re very well on their way to forming something special.”