February 3, 2010

W. Scoop: Waynesburg's No-Contact Drill

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Chay Lahew was built to play and coach football, but with a mindset adjustment he has managed to point the Waynesburg women's lacrosse team in the right direction.
© Dave Miller, ADM Photos

Chay Lahew was built for contact.

When he was in high school at Smithsburg (Md.), he was a bruising offensive lineman, a wrestler, and a close defender for the boy's lacrosse team. Standing at over six-feet and carrying an ample mass, Lahew dominated as an collegiate offensive lineman, thrice earning all-conference honors for Waynesburg University in the mid-1990s.

After he graduated in 1996, Lahew stayed on with Waynesburg, located in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania minutes from the West Virginia, and joined the Yellow Jackets football staff. He worked with the offensive lineman for several years and is now the offensive coordinator, and Lahew never hesitated to scream at his players to hit harder and move everything in front of them out of the way.

You could say when it comes to science of colliding humans beings together, Lahew is a savant.

Last spring, however, Lahew was forced to temper his smashmouth mentality. With no one having much of a lacrosse background after Laura Maness left to take over the fledgling Lake Erie program at the conclusion of the inaugural 2008 campaign, Lahew was handed the reins of the Waynesburg women's lacrosse team in its second year.

By taking the job, he had to put the brakes on 30-years of instinct and adopt an entirely new mentality.

"It is definitely a growing process," said Lahew. "I went to a couple of camps and talked to a few of the local referees and they really helped me transition nicely into more of non-contact sport mindset. You learn it's more about fundamentals and not the physicality of it, which is something I'm not necessarily used to in the sports I've played and coached."

Working with a brand new program didn't help Lahew's assimilation. With only two players on the 14-woman roster who had played the sport in high school, the frustration level was sometimes high for both players and coach. It certainly didn't help that the Yellow Jackets posted an 0-10 mark in the inaugural 2008 campaign.

"You could tell just how much that killed the spirit of the girls; to practice your tails off and all of sudden you're not competitive," said Lahew. "So that was my goal last year - be competitive in every aspect. Whether it's fighting for a ground ball or marking up defensively. We broke the game down into components and I figured if we could do that we'd get a couple of wins and that's what we did."

In the second game of the season, Waynesburg bested Wilson (Chambersburg, Pa.), 15-4 and followed that up three days later with a 17-5 triumph over Lancaster Bible. It was the only time the team had experienced a winning record, if only for five days, but it provided motivation to get better.

And it spurred Lahew to hit the recruiting trail, which is not an easy proposition for a regional school like Waynesburg. With just 38 high schools sponsoring girl's lacrosse in the 175-mile corridor between Waynesburg and Erie that feeds much of the WU student body, it would take a concerted effort to coax the best players from that area as well efficiently utilizing camps and tournament in nearby hotbeds.

"I really enjoy trying to get the best players from Western Pennsylvania and some of the best players in the Maryland region and try to develop them," said Lahew. "People might say, ‘It's a new program, there aren't any expectations.' But I don't like to lose."

Six more players will enter the program with previous experience this spring. Lahew says it's still not enough, but it's moving in the right direction. The coach has also expanded last season's eight-game schedule to 15 this year, with the expectation the Yellow Jackets will eclipse all of their records from 2009.

Recruiting, goal-setting and scheduling are things that span the gender gap. And while he is has managed to temper his tendency to coach contact, if only for lacrosse season, there has been another hurdle the big man is still trying to perfect: the best way to motivate young women.

"That is definitely where the learning curve is. Girls, they're different," laughed Lahew. "Guys, you can just tell them exactly what you think and they'll take it for what it is and let it roll off. Girls might be able to take that, too, but I can't talk to them like that. And especially with a new program, they can't feel attacked. I talked with a lot of a lot of male coaches who coach women's sports and I feel like I'm not as stern as I will be in the future, but it's important now to stay positive and make sure they are a growing as a student-athlete and we're getting better.

"I've done my best to always focus on the positive whereas with a football player you talk a little bit more about what they did wrong. Some of the guys on the offensive line said to me last year, ‘Hey coach, why can't you coach us like that. You never talked like that with us!'"

Those guys were lucky it was spring time, and Lahew was in no contact mode.

Checking In: Babson
The script is getting stale for Babson over the past three years. The plotline has followed the same arc since 2007 - the Beavers start the season as the team to beat in the NEWMAC and ends with Babson fizzling in either the first or second round of the NCAA tournament.

Frankly, head coach Kully Reardon is getting a little sick of it.

"After the last three years in the NCAA tournament we have realized that without playing high caliber team during the season like F&M and Salisbury, we have no chance when we go to meet them in the postseason," said Reardon, entering her ninth year with Babson. "We do not have the luxury of running midfield lines, therefore we have to be smart and use as many people as possible to play midfield and play it well. We have to make practices harder than games and make sure that we play out of our comfort zone as often as possible."

When you flip to the 2010 season and check out the schedule, the Beavers have done just that. Included in their non-conference slate are Union, Endicott, F&M, Claremont, Middlebury and Tufts - all NCAA tourney qualifiers last spring.

Making this schedule even more imposing is the loss of four starters on defense to graduation, transfer or injury. It may make for a slightly tougher start to the season for all-league junior goalie Sarah Macary (8.54 GAA), but if the younger players who are tasked to fill the void can get up to speed relatively quickly, Reardon estimates they'll be in decent shape.

This claim is bolstered by the fact that as fluid as the defensive situation is, the offense should have no trouble piling up goals. The top two leading scorers, seniors Anna Collins (75g, 16a) and Kaitlyn Pettengill (58g, 17a), are back along with midfielders Trisha Babson (21g, 23a) and Bowdoin transfer Jamie Spang.

"If we can teach the first-years our offense and defense and they really buy into it, then we should be competitive in the division," said Reardon.

Despite the brutal schedule and question marks on the backline, Babson should be considered the favorites to capture the NEWMAC's automatic qualifier once again. MIT, Wellesley, Springfield and Wheaton will all be threats to the crown, but they could be a year off from really making a serious run.

This year they'll act as more challenges for Babson, which hopes it will pay off with a longer season.

Slides & Rides
The women's season has occasional games in the next couple of weeks, but Feb. 27 is the first real big weekend in WD3...I asked Chay Lahew, the Waynesburg coach, if he was just keeping this seat warm or he was in it for the long haul. "I don't plan on giving up this lacrosse job as long as the passion is still there and committed to putting a winning program on the field," he said.

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