Stick work: Hannah Steele practices last spring in open gym.
Stick work: Hannah Steele practices last spring in open gym. (Public Opinion file/Ryan Blackwell)
Starting a high school sports program from scratch is not an easy task.

But Chambersburg, which will unveil a girls lacrosse program for the first time this spring, may have found a coach who is uniquely qualified to take on such a task.

Naomi Radio was officially named as the Trojans' coach this fall, although she had been working with area girls since last spring. She has experience in learning lacrosse from the ground up - she went to Mount St. Mary's as a soccer goalkeeper and ended up being recruited to be the lacrosse goalie.

Before she graduated, she helped The Mount to two NCAA Division I tournament berths and was named the conference MVP.

"The coach is excellent," said Chambersburg freshman Elise Crider. "She has the ability to teach us not just how to play the sport, but she can help us relate to her because she jumped into the sport just like we are."

Radio, who coached at Shippensburg University for three years, knows there is a lot of work to do before the games begin in March.

"It didn't seem so daunting until you realize that the games aren't too far away," Radio said. "But I'm excited that Chambersburg is opening up the doors to lacrosse. It's a fun sport that will be exciting for the girls."

One factor that could help lacrosse is that girls soccer moved to the fall, leaving a void in the spring season. Without lacrosse, girls could choose from only two sports - track & field and softball.


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Crider said, "We're hoping a lot of kids who played field hockey and soccer will give it a try. I know a lot of my friends are planning to try out."

"We've made an effort to get the message to the soccer girls," Radio said. "I visited them during a practice in the fall and a lot of girls seemed interested."

Chambersburg will begin holding open gym sessions in January and February before practice officially begins in March. The team already has a booster club (see box on this page) that is meeting Jan.

Naomi Radio
Naomi Radio
17. While the school is paying for the normal costs associated with a program - transportation, officials fees and coaches salaries - it's up to the booster club to fund the rest of the costs, including uniforms.

Scott Finley, who had a son, Steven, play boys lacrosse and a daughter, Sarah, playing girls lacrosse, is helping the girls booster club get started.

"We have some start-up costs and the biggest is uniforms," Finley said. "The boys booster club is helping, and we can share some equipment. We've gotten the ball rolling, but any donations would be welcome and appreciated."

Radio is hoping at least 30 to 35 girls come out for the sport - "I hope that's a conservative number," she said.

In open gyms last year, more than 40 girls showed up at times, but that included middle-school age girls. Finley said he expects the Trojans to field full varsity and JV teams this spring.

The girls who played last year were able to form a club team that competed in five or six scrimmages against area junior varsity teams. It was an eye-opening experience for Radio.

"We tried to give the girls an idea of what the games were like and get them some experience," she said, "and the biggest things were knowing how the games were run and getting used to the rules. In the first scrimmage nobody knew anything - the officials were essentially telling them the rules.

"But by the third or fourth game it was much better. It was invaluable to get that experience, and now we have a core of girls who can help out their teammates."

Zoe Cross, a junior who played last year, said, "Based on those scrimmages, this year will be a challenge, but I know we'll learn a lot and the coach has a very positive attitude. I'm really looking forward to getting started."

While lacrosse combines the elements of many sports, such as basketball, soccer and field hockey, it does have some unique skills that need to be learned, especially catching and passing the ball and other stick skills.

Radio said, "We're trying to focus on the basics first and go from there. The downside is that this sport can be hard - you can't just pick up a stick and get it right away. But if you have good hands and crossover skills from other sports, you can learn the stick skills if you work at them.

"At Chambersburg, we're lucky because we have a lot of good athletes who are strong and fast and they can make progress quicker. A lot of the improvement depends on how motivated you are, because you can go to clinics and camps and you can get on a wall (to practice throwing and catching)."

The Trojans will become one of 11 schools in the Mid Penn Conference with girls lacrosse - the others are Cumberland Valley, Carlisle, State College, Central Dauphin, CD East, Northern, Hershey, Lower Dauphin and Palmyra, and the only new program other than Chambersburg will be Bishop McDevitt.

Radio said, "Jumping in at that level will be a challenging thing. We're going to have to focus on improvement, not on results. We will have goals for our team that are reachable to keep them motivated."

"We know we have a lot to learn and a long way to go," Cross said. "But as long as we get it started and get the younger girls started, that's our goal. This is a new sport, it's fun, and it's something I want to help move along."

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Ed Gotwals can be reached at 262-4755 and egotwals@publicopinionnews.com.

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Girls lacrosse meeting

The Chambersburg Girls Lacrosse Booster Club will hold a meeting on Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. in the CASHS cafeteria. The preseason meeting is for all parents of players interested in joining the program.

General information will be available and a Q & A session will follow with coaches and booster club personnel.

For more information, contact Scott Finley (264-2382, or girlslaxchbg@gmail.com).