Soaring Eagle

Phillip Brents

Fri July 31, 2015 10:58am

The sport of lacrosse keeps growing in South County San Diego at all levels, from youth to high school. The results are starting to show on the scoreboard.
Earlier this spring, four teams from the Sweetwater Union High School District qualified to compete in the San Diego Section divisional playoffs and, for the first time, three of those squads strode off the field with first-round victories.
Eastlake High School, the three-time reigning Mesa League champion, scored an exciting 9-8 overtime win over Carlsbad in the opening round of the Division I playoffs while Olympian and Bonita Vista high schools both picked up first-round victories in the Division II playoffs.
The playoff wins for Eastlake and Olympian were the second in school history for both teams and built on first-round victories in last year’s playoffs. The playoff win was the first in school history for Bonita Vista.
Though all four Sweetwater district teams ended their seasons in the quarterfinal round, the message was clear: respect had been earned with an upgrade in talent. Performance by area high school teams has improved — and will continue to improve — with the infusion of lacrosse-savvy players from local youth programs. The significance of this year’s playoff win was definitely not lost on Olympian head coach Keith Quigley, the team’s founding coach.
“This is a third-year program,” Quigley explained. “We set a goal to get into the playoffs for the second consecutive year. It’s very positive for the team to reach those goals.”
Quigley has the youth lacrosse development base covered as well with his LAX619 youth lacrosse program that falls under the umbrella of Quigley’s parent PUCKidz program. PUCKidz stands for PUCKidz stands for Positive Understandable Coaching for Kids. Success at the high school level cannot be achieved without the hard work and dedication put into the sport by coaches and organizers at the grass-roots level.
Quigley is foremost among them. His PUCKidz program was recently rewarded with a $5,000 grant from the Bill Belichick Foundation. Quigley, an Eastlake resident, personally made the cross-country trek to Boston to be a part of the awards ceremony.
The grant was one of just seven made by the foundation to youth football and lacrosse programs across the country operating in underserved markets.
“Coach came in and gave a speech that I will remember for years to come,” Quigley explained. “He thanked me three times, at least twice face to face, for coming all the way from San Diego to be part of it.”
The ceremony involving the NFL New England Patriots head coach took place in a hotel adjacent to Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots. After the ceremony finished, Belichick went next door to oversee an offseason workout for the reigning NFL champions.
Despite owning four Super Bowl rings, including one this year, Belichick also has an extensive lacrosse background. Besides football, Belichick also played lacrosse in high school and was captain of the men’s lacrosse team his senior year at Wesleyan University.
All his children have played lacrosse. His daughter Amanda played women’s lacrosse at his alma mater and in July of this year was named head women’s lacrosse coach at Holy Cross College in Massachusetts. His oldest son Stephen played lacrosse and football at Rutgers University on scholarship. His youngest son Brian attends Trinity College where he plays lacrosse.
Quigley said the grant award will be used to provide scholarships for those who might not be able, for financial reasons, to participate in activities offered by the PUCKidz non-profit youth sports program. With the foundation grant money, Quigley said he will be able to offer more low cost clinics in the future at South County area schools. It is a win-win situation, he said.
“This will impact future high school teams (on both sides of the city) with experienced players from the youth level,” Quigley said. “I’m really trying to give the game some much-needed exposure at the elementary school level.” Lacrosse remains one of the fastest-growing youth sports in the San Diego region.
“Kids like it because it’s so active,” Quigley explained. “Once they get that stick in their hands, it’s new and different to them.” Quigley’s lacrosse program continues to expand. Over the summer, he ran four weeks of lacrosse camps for elementary/middle school children at the Montevalle Recreation Center field and Augusta Park in Eastlake.  
He also coached four different teams: a high school tournament team, a high school summer league varsity team, a high school summer league junior varsity team and a middle school summer league team (sixth through eighth grades).
The LAX619 high school tournament team played in two tournaments: the Pacific Lacrosse Festival in north San Diego (4-1 record) and the Summer Storm tournament in Oceanside (3-2 record). The 20 players on the team came from Bonita Vista, Southwest, Olympian, Eastlake, Coronado, Mar Vista and Chula Vista high schools.  The team is currently planning to enter more tournaments this fall.  
The LAX619 summer league teams participated in the Pacific Lacrosse League run out of Rancho Bernardo High School through July 26.  Combining all three teams, there were a total of 44 players spread from throughout the South County region. 
The lacrosse season isn’t over by any means. Quigley said LAX619 will offer fall teams to participate on, lacrosse clinics during fall break and participation in more tournaments. LAX619 also offers private lessons and small group lessons. For more information, visit the website at www.puckidz.net.