Lacrosse may seem like a foreign sport to many in the South Sound, but the Auburn Riverside Ravens lacrosse team feels right at home on the field.
“From day one, they came in and worked incredibly hard. They all pull for each other and are wonderful kids,” said Head Coach Scott Perry.
The Ravens’ lacrosse team is entering a new era with Perry taking over for longtime Riverside coach Lou Lucchesi, who coached for 17 years.
“One thing I learned about coaching at the high school level — you’re responsible for everything. The other adjustment is on the field, in terms of speed and athleticism. My staff and coaching partner are getting there, and to have a 3-1 start, we’re very excited,” said Perry.
Auburn Riverside’s lacrosse team has challenges many other sports don’t have to consider. The reason being is the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) does not recognize lacrosse as an official school sport, similar to water polo and judo. This makes the lacrosse team technically a club.
As a club sport, the problem is that many of the things the district and school organize or pay for fall onto the coaches. But that is not the case for Auburn Riverside’s lacrosse team.
“We are very fortunate that our administration treats us like a WIAA sport. We get fields and bus transportation for our kids. So students can essentially play lacrosse for free,” Perry said.
The field time, scheduling opponents and transportation are all the coaching staff’s duties.
“What ends up happening is we get pushed back, we have late practice times and that sort of thing. But we get great support from Riverside,” Perry said.
As a club at Auburn Riverside, the lacrosse involvement has skyrocketed in recent years. This 2023 season, the Ravens have 41 rostered players. With those 41 players, they now can field an entire varsity bench and have a full junior varsity team. Junior varsity won their first-ever game earlier this season.
“Back in the day there was a time where there were only 13 kids on the team,” Perry said.
One of the reasons for the increase in players at the high school level is the investment at the youth level. Perry founded the Auburn Youth Lacrosse program six years ago. There are currently five different teams on the website — three boys and two girls teams.
“My wife and I and other board members formed Auburn Youth Lacrosse, and when you develop a feeder team, it helps bring kids to the program,” Perry said.
This year, the team is also recognizing the late Camron Cozzi with the “Cam Coin.” Cozzi, who played lacrosse at Bonney Lake High School, died due to Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DPIG) in 2018. At the end of this game — and every game this season — the Ravens will award the Cam Coin to the player on the opposing team whom the Raven captains think best signifies sportsmanship and class on the field.
As a result, the other team’s captains do the same and pick a Riverside player.
“To be able to share and honor his legacy is humongous for our guys,” Perry said.
“I’ve worn number two since I started playing and part of that is because of Camron Cozzi. I’ve been around the game and his family my whole life,” said player Sawyer Hamlin, who was awarded the Cam Coin for the first time in his lacrosse career.
That is the culture Perry said he wants to build with his team, all of whom don bleached blond hair as a sign of team camaraderie.
“We’ve always been a close team. But this year, we kind of stepped it up,” Hamlin said.
“I think we look sick, we’re looking good out here,” player Braden Sherman said.
That is something the kids all decided on and participated in together.
“They said after we win our first game, we’re all going to bleach our hair. Then we won our second game. I’m follically challenged, but I told them I’d get a blond wig,” Perry said.
On March 29, the Ravens beat Stadium High School with a score of 11-0.
It was the first Raven shutout victory in program history, a team that has played for over 15 years and had never won a game without allowing an opposing goal.
Over the majority of the game, Braden Sherman had seven saves throughout the game, holding the Tigers off the scoreboard. He was subbed out at the 6:09 mark in the fourth quarter, and his substitute Thayne Krogman picked up two saves of his own late in the game.
“It feels amazing, the defense pulled it out with me today. I’m just glad that our team pulled it off,” said Sherman.
“Braden did an outstanding job,” Perry said of his goalkeeper. “We’re very proud of the team. The cohesion these guys have is great and they all play for each other. We don’t have a bad kid in the bunch. They’re a great group of kids.”
The team works well together, with the 11 goals scattered between five different players. Braylen McKeehan had three goals and an assist, and Henry Jones netted three goals of his own. Of the 11 goals, four of them had assists; Andrew Wold led the team with two assists.
“The defense can get lost out there because when one gap opens, we can take advantage of it,” Sawyer Hamlin said.
The Ravens have a difficult upcoming game against Sumner, one of the premier lacrosse programs in the state, and Riverside agrees they are ready for the challenge.
“We have to keep the intensity high and the physicality up. Dial in these next few days and show Sumner what’s up,” Sherman said.
At the end of the day, Perry said, “everyone is cheering for each other and their camaraderie is outstanding and it makes it easy to coach.”