Local players help lacrosse team win national titles
August 6, 2013
By Neil Pierson
Lacrosse hasn’t been recognized as an official high school sport in Washington, so it’s often difficult for local players to compete when they go up against more established East Coast programs.
Don’t tell that to the Team Washington Cohos, a group of sophomores from the Puget Sound area who dominated a pair of East Coast tournaments in July.
Four of the players attend Issaquah High School, and along with Issaquah head coach Brandon Fortier, they spent the better part of two weeks successfully playing at high levels.
Team Washington has been around since Fortier’s playing days in the mid-1990s, he said, but switched formats a few years ago. Now there are separate teams for seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen.
This year, Bellevue coach John Baumann, Lake Washington coach Dejon Hush and Fortier put together the Team Washington squads.
“It wasn’t a tryout – it was a hand-selected team,” Fortier explained.
The Cohos, all of whom will enter the 10th grade this year, didn’t have much time to get familiarized with each other. They had about a half-dozen practice sessions before they hit the road — first to the Tri-State National Summer Lacrosse Festival in New Jersey, then to the Champ Camp at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
“You bond pretty quick when you’re thrown into those tournaments and all of a sudden you’re playing three games a day,” Fortier said.
The Tri-State tournament was the more difficult proposition, the coach said, because there were more East Coast opponents. But the Cohos weren’t fazed, going 8-0 to capture the title. They largely dominated, outscoring their opponents 57-19, although they had close calls against two squads from Long Island, N.Y.
In the first match against the Long Island Outlaws, the Cohos trailed 4-0 before rallying to tie the game with 15 seconds to play. They scored the game-winning goal in the first 15 seconds of overtime. They followed that up with a gritty, 4-3 victory over the Long Island Piranhas in the championship match.
Two of the Issaquah players — attacker Ryan Egland and midfielder Jake Lindahl — saw varsity action as freshmen, while attacker Jake Collins and goaltender Jordan Dondoyano look likely to move up from junior varsity after gaining experience.
At the Champ Camp, the Cohos were placed in a sophomore-only division that significantly lowered the challenges they faced, Fortier said. They responded by posting a 6-1 record, avenging their only loss with a 6-4 victory in the title game versus the Junior Black Rhinos of Oregon.
Lindahl said the trip with the Cohos was highly valuable.
“We play a lot of great teams over here in Seattle,” he said, “but it’s a whole other level on the East Coast.”
Fortier praised Lindahl’s work on the field.
“He’s just a very steady rock – he basically just did the same as he did all year,” Fortier said of Lindahl. He’s not flashy, but he ended up scoring two goals in our last game that won the final tournament.”
Egland also scored two goals in the Champs Camps finale, and his coach expects more out of him as a sophomore at Issaquah.
“This was kind of a chance for him to learn how to be a vocal leader, and I saw him step up and be a leader of this group,” Fortier said. “So hopefully that transfers.”
Dondoyano seemed to earn the respect of his teammates throughout the trip, and Fortier said he’s in line to become Issaquah’s varsity starter following the graduation of Brady Hahn.
“I think he’s going to be one of the best, if not the best, in the state in the next couple years,” Collins said. “He just went to a goalie camp back east, and he’s just doing really well.”
Collins and Lindahl said the experience with the Cohos should bode well for their respective futures.
“It was cool that they selected me,” Collins said, “because I was thinking that now that (Fortier) saw me perform back east that hopefully he’ll move me up to varsity next year.”
“I need to work in the offseason … on exploding and dodging, being able to beat guys one-on-one,” Lindahl said, “which will help the offense as a benefit, not just me personally scoring, but getting the offense moving so we get a good rotation, get a good shot for one of my teammates.”