Already a box lacrosse ace, Coldstream’s Chelsea Weisgerber has had to learn the sport’s field counterpart on the fly.
With just two months of practice, the 17-year-old recently toured with the Burnaby Mountain Selects girls field team to the Northern Rise tournament in Boston. The Selects didn’t win a game, but for Weisgerber, it was more about gaining confidence and exposure in an unfamiliar sport.
“That was my first time ever playing girls field lacrosse,” said Weisgerber, a 5-foot-5 attack wing who pocketed a pair of goals and several assists in four games in Beantown.
“I love lacrosse so much, and playing girls is really my only option. You can’t play with the boys at this age because they’re way too big.”
Weisgerber, a straight-A student at Kalamalka Secondary, realizes field lacrosse is her best option for not only continuing her beloved sport, but also securing a scholarship. Her goal is to attract interest from U.S. colleges, but she worries it might be too late to get noticed.
“I started way too late to get recruited,” she said. “I only started playing girls field lacrosse two months ago. It’s hard because the (NCAA) Div. 1 and Div. 2 schools, they pretty much have their teams picked already for my age group.”
That leaves Division 3 schools, who have shown interest in Weisgerber due to her student-athlete qualities.
“They don’t give out athletic scholarships, but they do give out academic scholarships, and I get straight A’s,” she said.
Weisgerber, who moved to Coldstream from Calgary, says there are plenty of subtle differences that have made the transition from box to field a challenging one. There is also one that is not so subtle.
“For my team, we play in skirts, so that’s a lot different,” laughed Weisgerber, who also struggled for a bit to adapt to the different sticks used in girls lacrosse.
“You don’t have pockets in the sticks, so stickhandling is a lot different. You don’t get a nice pocket in it because it’s flat. It’s really hard to handle the ball, but my stick skills are just as good as theirs.”
Given Weisgerber’s crash course into field lacrosse, Selects’ head coach Chris Fox feels there is plenty of untapped potential in her game.
“She came in completely fresh,” he said. “She had a general idea of the game… and she was able to rely on her great athleticism.
“Once she felt comfortable with her new stick, she was then able to focus on the new rules and strategies of the women’s game.”
Fox says a lot of Weisgerber’s early success has to do with her dedication and willingness to learn. She quit her job so that she could make the five-hour commute to Burnaby every weekend for the two months of training.
“Chelsea is extremely coachable and not afraid to ask questions; quite humble,” he said. “More often than not, the other girls were thinking of asking the same questions, but Chelsea was so eager to learn, she was first to put her hand forward and step up and ask. A coach’s dream, really.
“Chelsea was one of our most improved (players), not because she wasn’t great to begin with, but because she learned so much and was able to apply it on the field in such a limited and regimented amount of time.”
No matter what happens, Weisgerber is adamant she will stay connected with lacrosse. If she is unable to secure a scholarship, she would love to help the girls game flourish in the Okanagan as a coach.
“I’m going to try really hard to get girls started,” she said. “Lacrosse is such a fun sport. It’s just not very popular, but maybe if people knew about it more it would catch on.”
Weisgerber made North Okanagan box lacrosse history in 2009 by becoming the first-ever player, boy or girl, to make a provincial team. She competed at nationals in Whitby, Ont.
She also backstopped the Vernon United Under 17 girls soccer team to a provincials berth earlier this summer.