Stash lacrosse to compete in U19 girls division at Vail Lacrosse Shootout
Club has responded to growing demand for summer girls lacrosse options in valley
Lacrosse, like all high school sports, has become a year-long commitment. With the valley’s demand for summer offerings rising, Katie Clinnin decided girls shouldn’t be left out.
“Really there is kind of a bigger story here of the girls up and coming,” said Clinnin, the head coach of Stash Lacrosse, a girls-only program offering instruction and competitive opportunities to middle and high school athletes in the area. She said the seeds for Stash were planted during the pandemic.
“There’s the sport of lacrosse — this huge wave of momentum for girls sports kind of riding on lacrosse,” Clinnin said.
Stash will play in the U19 division at the Vail Lacrosse Shootout, starting June 25.
While the tournament is one of the premier, longest-running lacrosse events in the country, the presence of local teams have been sparse over its 50 years.
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“It’s in our backyard. It’s such an exciting event — I guess I just didn’t see why not,” said Clinnin of what motivated her to register Stash.
According to Vail Lacrosse Shootout’s director, Michelle Secor, Becky Hesseltine once brought a team from the Edwards area and Rife Hilgartner assembled a team from Vail in 2018. There has also been a spattering of teams from Grand Junction and one from Aspen. Lindsey Mills will bring a Telluride bunch for the second straight year as well.
“One of the reasons you don’t have a lot of local teams go, at least with high school girls, is because we often can’t get the numbers,” Clinnin explained.
“And also it’s a really tough tournament.”
Clinnin also helps with Vail Valley Lacrosse club.
“It’s an amazing organization. They recently partnered with Mountain Rec, so they’re growing,” she said, noting that the club only caters to girls younger than eighth grade.
“So, there is no continuation for club or rec lacrosse after that.”
After the cancellation of the 2020 prep season, Vail Valley Lacrosse’s Brian Welch reached out to volunteers to run something to keep kids active. Clinnin was one of the only female coaches for the youth girls program.
Additionally, she started offering high school clinics through 10th Mountain Lacrosse, “because there was so much demand,” and found herself coaching six days per week for the next 4-5 months. With the help of some involved moms, she got a team entered into the Vail Lacrosse Tournament for the first time.
“After that, there was just so much interest and enthusiasm that I just (started) focusing on the girls’ program,” said Clinnin of the birth of Stash, adding that the relationship with 10th Mountain Lacrosse is still “definitely a very tight-knit, collaborative effort.”
“The community is so strong,” she added.
“There’s such a good group of people here. And so, I’m kind of hoping to do right by them and help these kids have their own team so they don’t have to travel to Denver.”
Preparing for the Shootout
Stash has been preparing for the tournament with three evening practices per week at Freedom Park. The roster is a mix of athletes from all four area high schools — “a reunion of sorts,” as Clinnin explained it — as well as some incoming freshmen.
Vail Mountain junior Quincy Pribamsky already plays lacrosse at a different school, so playing with kids from other teams “feels pretty normal.”
“Everybody was just super welcoming,” said freshman Addie O’Connor.
“A lot of us knew each other. It was pretty seamless.”
The group grew closer playing in a recent tournament in Denver two weeks ago.
“Our team hasn’t played much together,” said Reese Malboeuf, a sophomore who attends Proctor Academy in New Hampshire during the school year but lives in Vail.
“We got some experience with each other, which is great going into this tournament. Now we know what it’s like playing with each other.”
Pribamsky is excited about the opportunity Stash has provided to grow her game during the off-season.
“It will keep us ready for the school season. I think it will be fun to get to know the new people and play through the summer,” she said.
“I like being able to play over the summer because we haven’t been able to,” added Emme Eaton, an incoming freshman at Battle Mountain.
There is a healthy mix of nerves and excitement as the tournament approaches.
“It’s been definitely a challenge, but I think it’s nice to have more of a challenge,” said Palmer Ulvestad, a freshman at VSSA. Ulvestad’s Vail LAX team won all of their games but one, mostly against the same mix of nearby mountain schools.
“So, being able to play against high schoolers and kind of some college people is a good challenge,” Ulvestad said. “I’m just excited and can’t wait.”
“I think it’s going to be really fun to play some different competition that we’ve never played before — and out of state people, too — and see what happens as we go,” added O’Connor.
“I think it’s good to see all the stick skills they have because they’re all a lot better than us. Playing with them always makes us better,” Eaton commented.
Pribamsky said the team is focused on “working on fundamentals and playing hard, even if we’re losing.”
“I’m definitely preparing for much more fast-paced games. We have to be ready to adapt to what they’re doing,” she said.
Battle Mountain sophomore Kylah Romer also noted the raised energy brought forth by the presence of college recruiters.
“I think that’s also a thing that you really want to try your best, even if you aren’t thinking of playing in college,” Romer encouraged. With a mix of younger and more experienced kids across Stash’s roster, the opportunity to guide the next generation is built in.
“When we swung up for varsity, it pushed me and made me want to reach for that higher level,” Romer said of her freshmen season at Battle Mountain.
“I think it’s good for us to play with them because they’re going to be coming to Battle Mountain and playing for us.”
“My number one goal is that the kids have fun and that they like it and that we do this every year from now on,” Clinnin said.
“That’s my priority.”
The girl’s U19 tournament begins June 27 and runs each day through June 30. As of this writing, 16 teams are entered. The first two days includes round-robin pool play, with eight-team gold and silver brackets to follow the next two days. Stash is seeded No. 11 and will play against Puget Sound, Hero’s White and Stars Lt. Blue in pool C.
10th Mountain LAX also has entered into the girl’s tournament and will contest pool D.
Traditionally, east-coast teams flying in have brought a level of performance and culture not regularly seen in the valley. It’s a challenge and opportunity the Stash athletes are enthusiastic about embracing.
“I think it’s also a bit of a home-field advantage,” Malboeuf said.
“We’ve been practicing here every day, and now we get to play here, so that’s nice for our team.”