While lacrosse is traditionally seen as a pastime on the East Coast, the sport has seen an explosion of attention here in Poway and up the West Coast. With its high speed and explosive play, lacrosse games are thrilling to watch and intense to participate in, especially when the players are our young talented Poway High School girls lacrosse team. At the time of print, the team was preparing for the CIF playoffs, which ran through mid-May. We talk with Varsity Head Coach Sarah Spillett about the sport, the challenges of being a student athlete and what to expect out of our Titans.
Q&A with Poway High School Head Girls Lacrosse Coach Sarah Spillett
What is the history behind your career as an athlete and as a coach?
Sports have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Syracuse, NY, where lacrosse is extremely popular. My father played his entire life and was a coach for both the girls and boys high school programs where we lived. He instilled the passion for the game in me from a young age. As I got older that passion continued to grow, as did my dedication to both volleyball and lacrosse. After graduating high school, I played lacrosse for four years at the University at Albany. Shortly after graduation, I moved to San Diego, where I became involved in Poway Lacrosse almost immediately.
Name: Sarah Spillett
Education: BA in Business Administration, currently working on Special Education Teaching Credential at SDSU
Family Information: Grew up in Syracuse, NY where Julie Spillett (mom) and Brandon Spillett (brother) still reside. Brandon was a National Champion lacrosse player for Lemoyne College and continued to play professionally for several years. Dan Spillett (father) was a lacrosse coach in Syracuse, NY for many years before passing in 2005.
Hobbies/Interests: Coaching and playing sports, spending time with family and friends
How long have you been the head coach, and what enticed you to want to coach?
This current season is my sixth season as the Poway varsity head coach. I have always known that I would want to coach and give back to the sport. Lacrosse has molded me into the person I am today, and I have a passion for creating those same experiences and opportunities for my players. I hope to inspire them to not only learn the game, but the life lessons that come along with being a part of something greater than yourself.
How have the girls done this season?
Overall the girls have done great this season. We are currently waiting to get our ranking for CIF Playoffs. We finished our regular season games in early May, and placed second in the Palomar League. We competed in the Open Division, and went to playoffs in May as well. Like any season, this year has had its ups and downs. Some of the highlights included our wins against Torrey Pines, Coronado, Westview and Rancho Bernardo. These are all really strong rivalries for us and it was exciting to see the girls come out on top in those games.
What was the number one goal that the girls upheld this year?
One of the number one goals this season my girls upheld was perseverance. Every year we are faced with new challenges, and we wanted to focus on never giving up regardless of the circumstances. One of the aspects of my program we pride ourselves on is playing with heart. We have a passionate group of girls who have really come together at the end of this season to play for each other and never give up. I am always so proud when I see them play all the way down to the last whistle, and have that pay off.
What is the most rewarding aspect about coaching? The most challenging?
There are so many rewarding aspects about coaching it is hard to narrow it down. I would say the most rewarding is seeing the growth from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. You see the girls push themselves day in and day out in practices, which eventually translates to on-field successes. There is nothing like seeing my players accomplish their goals. I would say the most challenging is facing obstacles that are out of your control. For example, when a player becomes injured during the season. It is so hard to see a player who you know works so hard and then get sidelined for any period of time. Although challenging, you just have to stay positive and focused on healing.
What is your coaching philosophy and how do you instill that upon the girls?
My coaching philosophy is to foster a positive environment that encourages teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership among my student athletes. I believe my program should encourage student athletes to reach their full potential and be successful both on and off the field. I believe in always making sure we have a “team first” mentality. Lastly, I expect my athletes to uphold the philosophy of Pursuing Victory with Honor by demonstrating caring, citizenship, fairness, respect, responsibility, and trustworthiness. As a coaching staff, we model this with each practice and game.
Tell us about the support you receive from parents, volunteers and the community.
I feel very fortunate for all of the support that my program receives. I cannot say enough positive things about the parents and volunteers that I have worked with over the past six years. The parents have been dedicated, passionate, and supportive of the program. Since girls lacrosse has to fund itself, my families work tirelessly throughout the year to fundraise and make everything possible. I have also been overwhelmed with the number of people willing to step up and volunteer their time for game days and team events. I have found that there is something so unique and special about the Poway community in general. It truly feels like you are a part of a family and it is a privilege to coach in this district!
If you could grant the team one wish, what would that be?
If I could grant the team one wish, it would be for them to take home a CIF Title this year. We have an extremely special team this year with many seniors who have several years of experience on Varsity. Many of the girls on my team have been playing together since middle school, and I would love for them to have all that hard work pay off with an Open Division Championship. We have the talent and just need to stay focused on our goals!
Tell us about the coaching staff and what they bring to the team.
I feel very fortunate to have the staff that we do in our program. As mentioned before, this is my sixth season with the Poway Varsity Girls. My Assistant Coach, Alyse Lasater, is a Poway High School graduate who continued her lacrosse career at UC Davis. The 2014 season marks her third year as a coach for the program. Alyse was a tenacious player and really has been able to take our defense to the next level. She is a great role model for the players and I can’t imagine coaching without her! The other Assistant Coach, Ashley Inman, is also a Poway High School graduate who then continued to play for four years at the University of Oregon. Ashley was a senior at Poway High School during my first year coaching. Ashley has stepped up to help varsity in so many ways, and has also taken on coaching our middle school program as well. Having that consistency from the middle school all the way through the high school level is tremendously helpful. Last, but certainly not least, our Junior Varsity Coach, Megan Luther. Megan started coaching at Poway three years ago and has been a huge asset to our program. Megan was a head varsity coach in Texas for four years, prior to relocating to San Diego, and she led the team to two Texas State Championship Tournaments. Megan is positive, enthusiastic, and dedicated. Her expertise has really helped prepare the JV players to be successful at the varsity level. I can’t say enough great things about our coaching staff and hope to continue to be able to coach with them for many years to come.
What do most girls on the team do during the off-season?
During the off-season, most of the girls play on either travel or local club teams. Many of them play for West Coast Starz, which is a competitive traveling club team. This team practices year round (with the exception of during CIF season) and travels to play at top level recruiting events. We also have a club team that plays locally, called SD Sharkz. The SD Sharkz have both summer and winter seasons, and practice and compete throughout San Diego County. The majority of the players will join either of those programs to keep their skills sharp in the off-season.
Are there any local talents who have gone/will go on to play on a collegiate and/or professional level?
I have actually had at least one senior every season continue their lacrosse career at the collegiate level. It is exciting to see the sport continue to grow and more girls from this area continue to play after high school. I continue to follow their careers and many of them come back to Poway to coach in the off-season. This year we have three seniors and a junior who are committed to play at the college level: Asia Pitzer (UC Davis), Sydney Masaki (Fresno State University), Claire Amabile (UC Santa Barbara), and Natalie Yorba (Fresno State University).
What awards/accolades/recognition has the team garnered over the years?
During the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Poway Girls Lacrosse was recognized as the Palomar League Champions. We were also the CIF-runner up in the 2012 Division 1 Championships. Since I began coaching in 2009, the program has always had players recognized on All CIF and All League teams. During the 2012 season, we were also given the Coach of the Year and Player of the Year awards.
How do you stress the importance of academics to the student athletes?
This is very important. We talk at the beginning of the year about how we are student athletes, student being first. It is important to recognize that being an athlete is a privilege. We place a lot of emphasis on time management and making sure that the girls are taking care of their grades first and foremost. We also are able to check GPA’s every grading period to make sure that players are on track.
If you could describe the team this year in five words or less, what would that be?
Passionate, committed, competitive, driven, and respectful.
Name of Team: Poway High School
Coaching Staff: Sarah Spillett (Head Varsity), Alyse Lasater (Assistant Varsity), Ashley Inman (Assistant Varsity), Megan Luther (Junior Varsity)
Number of Girls on Varsity: 16
Number of Girls on JV: 16
Last Year’s Record: 10 – 8
This Year’s Record: 10 – 8