Hanging 10

Phillip Brents

Fri March 27, 2015 11:34am

Nestor Rosas was known as a football, baseball, track and field, and sometimes basketball and wrestling man while attending Mar Vista High School. He is likely known best today at the head coach of the Eastlake High School boys lacrosse team.
Rosas is celebrating his 10th year in the Titans program this spring. He has announced that it will be his last. It’s been a memorable decade for Rosas, who entered the season with 88 wins under his belt as a head coach. Will he collect that magic 100th win before he leaves?
“It will be tough with our schedule,” he admitted. “We won’t play 20 games this season because of some late cancellations, so I don’t know if 100 is attainable. I’ll definitely be over 90.” Regardless of the number of career victories Rosas finishes with, the Titans under his leadership will have set many milestones.
Rosas has guided Eastlake to three league championships and the school’s first playoff victory. He also helped the team overcome tragedy after the death of its star player early in the season. He’s seen it all with the Titans, who are riding the wave of two consecutive league championships.
In the beginning
Rosas began his stint with the Titans as an assistant coach, serving three years under former head coach Doug Murphy. Rosas had no background in lacrosse. He was drawn into the sport through his son Ryan, who made the team as a freshman.
“I was at a team dinner one night with Ryan and Murph came over to me and said I likely knew his wife, who also went to Mar Vista High School,” Rosas recalled. “I did. His wife had told him how much of an all-around sports guy I had been then, and Murph asked if I would like to help him out with the team.
“It was baptism by fire for me. I learned the sport … it’s a great sport.”
Eastlake won three consecutive league championships with Murphy as head coach and Rosas as assistant coach. Murphy left to coach lacrosse at other schools within the Sweetwater Union High School District, with Rosas moving up to take over the head coaching position with the Titans.
This is Rosas’ seventh year as EHS head coach. The Titan program has come a long way since his arrival. Being the new sport on campus, the EHS lacrosse team has paid its share of dues to get where it is today.
“When we first started, the home games weren’t even on campus,” Rosas recalled. “We practiced at a public park next to the school and played our home games at Rancho del Rey Middle School.
“By the third, year, we got to play one or two games in the park. Then the next year we had one or two games in the stadium on campus and the rest in the park.” All home games are now played in Stan Canaris Stadium, and have been for the last several years.
“It was a slow evolution,” Rosas explained. “We were a new sport trying to grab a spot in the line-up. It’s kind of ironic in that Eastlake has one of the largest student bodies in the district yet the smallest field space. Our soccer teams are always in the playoffs, so we have to move our practices to any available space.”
During a recent girls lacrosse game in the stadium, the boys lacrosse team practiced on the grass beyond the softball outfield fence. At first, there was only a varsity boys lacrosse team at Eastlake. The Titans junior varsity team developed several years afterward as the number of student-athletes coming out for the team increased.
The addition of the JV program, plus existing youth feeder programs in the area, have catapulted the Titans to the top of the talent base in the eastern Chula Vista area.
“It’s been a big-time success,” Rosas said. “In the early years we would get kids who had zero experience in lacrosse. We had basically two weeks to flip them around and make them lacrosse players.
“This year we have one kid who has eight years of lacrosse experience. Now the varsity team focus doesn’t have to be on fundamentals. Now we can focus on more advanced techniques because they already know how to catch and pass the ball.
“We’ve strengthened the program without a doubt. We’ve gotten stronger each year. We’re scheduling tougher teams each year. The premise is that if you play tougher competition, it should raise your own caliber of play. We need that in the South Bay. In the future, we’re only going to get stronger.” Rosas estimated about half of the 40 players on the JV team already have three to four years of lacrosse experience.
“That group is going to be together for three or four years — it’s going to be incredible,” Rosas said. “This will be the largest group of kids (at the school) who will be playing together that long.”
Rosas’s son Ryan graduated from Eastlake in 2007, winning league championships his sophomore, junior and senior years. “He was a small kid,” the elder Rosas noted. “What Doug liked about him was that he’d get knocked down and get back up.”
It was during the younger Rosas’s time with the team that the Titans defeated then league power Bonita Vista for the first time. It was a watershed victory — and the start of a new era at Eastlake.
The elder Rosas’s biggest win during his tenure with the team has to be last year’s 13-3 playoff win over Canyon Crest Academy.
“It was amazing,” the EHS coach said. “We just drilled a North County team. Every time you play a North County team, you think the odds are against you.”
Nestor Rosas admits he’s still picking up key things after 10 years as a coach with the Titans. He said the game he remembers most is actually a loss to east side rival Otay Ranch, then coached by Murphy.
“We were up by two goals with 1:34 to play and lost,” Rosas recalled. “I learned you can lose a game with a minute-and-a-half to play. Doug taught me everything I know about lacrosse and he still schooled me.”
Rosas said the untimely death of team co-captain Tommy Henderson in a swimming pool accident just five games into the 2013 season was among the most challenging aspects of his coaching career. The Titans were scheduled to play a game the day following Henderson’s death.
“That was one of the toughest things to deal with,” Rosas explained. “A lot of people told me not to play the game because a lot of times kids don’t know how to deal with a tragedy like that. I spoke with Tommy’s mother Teresa and she said Tommy would have wanted us to play. Teresa Henderson gave her blessing and we played. It was an emotional game.” Eastlake won 19-3.
As for this season, do the Titans have enough left in the tank to win a third consecutive league title?
“I think it’s going to be wide open for several teams,” Rosas said. “We are returning our entire defense and goalie but we’ll have to mix it up to get more people to attack. It will be even across the board.”
In other words, it should be exciting.