The Keller girls varsity lacrosse team has made great strides over the past several seasons, culminating in its first state appearance. The team traveled to Houston on Saturday for the state championship tournament. Though Keller lost to Katy 8-9 in the Division 2 quarterfinal game, the team had an incredible inaugural varsity year.
“We are thrilled to have made it to state,” said Keller Lacrosse President Tracey Perry. “At the beginning of the season, I never could have forecast that. It is amazing.”
Not yet a UIL-sanctioned sport, girls lacrosse is governed by the Texas Girls High School Lacrosse League, or TGHSLL. Keller Lady Lacrosse is a Division 2 member of the TGHSLL North District, which encompasses North Texas and Northwest Louisiana, and started on the youth side four years ago. After several years of growth they finally have reached the varsity level.
“The first of our (grades) 5-6 team are freshmen this year, and we are starting to see the fruits of our labor,” Perry said. “We told them back then to put their hard work in the bank and they would be able to cash that check down the road. This is their reward.”
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The Keller team includes girls from public and private schools across the Keller area, and the sport continues to interest new athletes.
“Our primary pool is KISD, and we have great support from them through fields and facilities,” Perry said. “We have 20 girls who will receive the first varsity letter in lacrosse in Keller, which is amazing. The fact that we made it to state is even more.”
Girls have joined Keller Lacrosse for a variety of reasons.
“Lacrosse is a great sport and it is becoming more mainstream,” Perry said. “We are drawing good, hard-working athletes that may have become disenfranchised with other sports and wanted to try something different, or they play other sports in the off-season and we want those multi-sport athletes. We benefit from what they bring from the other sports and they take back what they learn in lacrosse.”
Keller garnered several all-state nods this year, including senior defender Hannah Cullis.
“Hannah is phenomenal,” Perry said. “She is a team captain and an all-around great person and leader. She has great skills. I had no doubts the first time I saw her play that she would go on to play in college and she is.”
Other all-state honors went to sophomore midfielder Lauren Skalniak and freshman attack Emily Eller.
“Lauren could probably be our first D1 athlete,” Perry said. “She was awarded a $200 gift certificate at state for having the fastest shot. Any goalie having faced the other side of her shot knows this very well.”
Goalie Katie Sylvester also helped drive Keller’s success this season.
“Katie has phenomenal skills in goal. They often say a strong goalkeeper helps you win games, and she helps us in the backfield tremendously,” Perry said. “This is a great group of girls. There are 12 on the field and it takes 12 girls playing together as a team to win a game.”
In the muddy quarterfinal game Saturday, Katy came out quickly and was leading 5-0. With only one sub, Keller called a time-out. After the time-out, Keller roared back and scored three unanswered goals and closed the deficit to 3-5 before half time.
“During the beginning minutes of the second half we had a game-ending injury to one of our defenders, leaving us with no subs,” Perry said. “Our motto for the second half was to believe and to channel the will to win. We came within one point in a very intense, hard-fought battle but came up short as the game ended 8-9.”
Despite the loss, head coach Nettie Marshall was excited and optimistic about the future of Keller Girls Lacrosse.
“I am extremely proud of our girls. They showed determination and were true warriors on a field in Houston on a hot, humid morning,” she said. “I expect huge things from this group of girls.”
Perry couldn’t be prouder of the team’s efforts.
“These girls were never expected to go to state as a first-year varsity squad, especially as this is only the fourth season for our girls-youth and HS,” she said. “We are so proud of them. At the end of the day, our team left all on the field, and although it would have been great to advance game with a win, it was all we could ask for as coaches.”