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Hale lacrosse team gets new coach


Nathan Hale High School's lacrosse team will kick off its new season in March, with a goal of improving on its last place finish in league competition last year.

Lacrosse is a sport that is played on an athletic field where players use long sticks with baskets on the end to shoot a small rubber ball the size of a tennis ball into a goal.

In Washington state, high school lacrosse teams compete in three divisions, with Division 1 considered the most advanced and Division 3 considered the least advanced. Each division has 7-8 teams.

Last year, Nathan Hale's lacrosse team made the jump to Division 1 from Division 2 the previous season. The team also had a change in coaches, with assistant coach Colin Hunter taking over as interim head coach, after longtime coach Tony Olney left to take the head coach job for the lacrosse team at Lakeside High School.

Consequently, the Hale team ended up with a dismal 4-12 record last year, finished in 8th place out of eight teams.

That was a big step down from the 2000 season, when Hale racked up an impressive 9-1 record in Division 2 play and lost the state championship by the narrowest of margins to Maple Valley High School, 7-6 in sudden death overtime.

Nate Koppelman, one of this year's co-captains for the Hale team, was a sophomore first-year member of the 2000 season team. He said it was difficult to cope with seeing his team end up in the cellar last year after doing so well the previous year.

"It was depressing," noted Koppelman, who is now a senior.

Koppelman believes the Hale team has a great chance to contend for a league title.

"This year will be better," said Koppelman, with an assuring grin.

One of the reasons for Koppelman's optimism is his team's new head coach, Chris Long, who served as assistant coach to last year's Division 1 champs, the lacrosse team from Mercer Island High School.

Hunter will stay on with the Hale team as an assistant coach, specializing in defense.

Long said he plans to bring a more team-oriented approach to Hale, and will try to build a winning program. So far, Long likes what he sees in his new team, although he added, "We're weeding out the (players) that don't want to work."

"They're hard (workers)," said Long of his new players. "They're everything I asked for. No complaints."

Both Coach Long and co-captain Koppelman, as well as several other team members, are looking forward to playing the Maple Valley High School team, which is also now in Division 1, as payback for the 2000 championship match.

Hale will play Maple Valley at Hale's new athletic field complex on March 26. Hale's first game of the season will be a road game on March 12 against Port Angeles High School.