Parents coach their kids at the youth level all the time, however, I’m not aware of many instances where someone coaches their sibling. Owatonna High School senior Anni Moran is doing just that for her sister’s under-12 lacrosse team. The two feed off each other’s enthusiasm for the sport.
“I like to see her more because she’s always busy with lacrosse and homework,” says Amelia. “But it’s nice to have her as a coach.” She can also thank big sis for her introduction to the game. “Anni convinced me. During the pandemic we had free time and I started to play, and I really enjoyed it.”
Each girl started in the fourth grade. For Anni, the family moved to town and it was a chance to try a new sport. “You have to catch the ball with a stick. I’ve never done something like that. So, I thought it would be fun.” She started coaching a couple of seasons ago. Head coach Dani Licht was leading the under-12 team after varsity practice and invited players to help. Anni had to drive Amelia home afterward anyway, so she decided to give it a try. She is now in her second year as head coach.
“I love the game of lacrosse. More importantly, it’s the girls. At our last game, I could see that they were really loving the game. They were really getting into it. And that just made me super happy and that’s why I do it.”
A family of coaches
The girls come from a coaching family. Peggy was a volleyball coach at Triton. Jeremy is the current Owatonna softball coach. Anni said, “just having that many people all listening to you and having to figure out how to manage all that,” took a little getting used to.
Thankfully, there are no sibling rivalry issues here. “She’s easy to coach. She listens to me,” said Anni Moran.
Amelia said it was never awkward. “Before the season in the summer, we would practice together, and she would give me tips. So, it wasn’t really anything new.” She says the season is going well. They’re winning some games and coming together as a unit.
Anni can see herself coaching in the future. But her next big thing, after finishing her senior season with the Huskies, is playing for Division Two Quincy University. “I’m definitely excited for the next level, playing with better players and against better teams. It’s really going to push me as a player to improve and to grow.” She’ll study chemistry at the school in Illinois. She also ran cross-country and played basketball for OHS.
The two admire each other’s skills. Amelia says she never misses a game and that Anni is “really good at her dodges and faking the defense out.” Many of those “dodges” end in an Owatonna goal.
Anni counters, saying, “She’s very aggressive and hard-working. She’s all over the field and she also has a skill for getting the ball in the back of the net.”
Amelia wants to encourage others to give it a try. “There’s just so many different skills and different pieces to lacrosse. It’s not boring. There are so many different things. And it’s a team sport.” She also runs cross-country and plays soccer and hockey.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of lacrosse at the high school level in Owatonna, debuting as a club team. The first year there were 24 players, including two girls.
Scott Seykora was there on Day One and still coaches the boys’ varsity. He was a baseball guy growing up and was introduced to lacrosse in college. He told the Owatonna Live Coaches Show he “had a really good experience there and fell in love with the game.”
“I heard there was a couple of kids that were interested in playing in Owatonna and thought, ‘Let’s see what we can do,’” said Seykora.
How has lacrosse endured here? Seykora says, “Partly it’s because of the kids and how they enjoyed the game. I’ve had a good coaching staff throughout the years and we’ve kind of stuck together and I think that really helps build the program as well. And it’s just been a lot of fun doing that.”
Junior captain Jack Strom played baseball and lacrosse in early elementary, but ultimately had to pick one. “I like the physical aspect along with using teammates and a lot of teamwork involved in the sport.”
Caleb Hullopeter, a junior captain, likes the competitiveness and fast-paced nature of the game. “I like running instead of standing on a base.” He told the Coaches Show, “It’s a very unique game. There’s not much like it. It does correlate a little bit with hockey, but the ball movement is the main thing that you have to have.” Both Strom and Hullopeter play football and hockey.
For senior captain Beckett Seykora, the choice was clear from the start. “I’ve been playing lacrosse for pretty much as long as I can remember. I took a break in sixth grade, and since then I’ve been playing for the rest of the time.”
It’s his one sport and dedicates a lot of time to it. “I feel like I have a lot of knowledge. That’s one thing I like to contribute to the team. I try to make sure everybody knows what they’re doing and where they’re going.”
Beckett says fans new to the sport will “notice immediately the physicality in fighting for ground balls and trying to play defense on someone.”
Scott Seykora adds that even fans who watch for a while still don’t understand the rules entirely. “That’s kind of fun and entertaining sometimes to have conversations with some of the parents and fans. But I think it’s just so fast-paced. There’s no other sport like it where you can score three goals in 30 seconds and it’s a normal thing. Or you can go ten minutes without a goal.”
Three of the four players that aged-out of Steele County Blades junior hockey this past season will skate with college teams. Joey Bunton (Danville, IL) earned a spot on the club team at the University of Kentucky. Connor Homan (Anchorage, AK) decided on George Mason University in Virginia.
Brady Rossbach (New Berlin, WI) is the fifth Steele County player to commit to Framingham State University in Massachusetts. In fact, Soren Colstrup, an OHS grad who played for the Blades, is now an assistant coach at Framingham after playing for them.
The Blades announced their team awards last month. Rossbach, with nearly 40 points, earned the Hardest Worker Award. Goalie Levi Preugschas (Buffalo, MN) was named the Matt Tveite Most Valuable Player with 14 wins and a .915 save percentage. Captain Anders Thorager (Stillwater, MN) landed Defensive Player of the Year. Dylan Carlson (Albert Lea, MN) was the Most Improved Player. Noah LaFleur (West Salem, WI) earned Offensive Player of the Year after a 50-point campaign. Preugschas and LaFleur also made the Midwest West Division All-Stars as named by the US Premier Hockey League.