Women’s lacrosse leaning on first year head coach to rebuild program

When Dexter O’Connell moved to Chico for work, he thought his days of lacrosse were far behind him. However, he thought wrong. 

One morning, O’Connell was picking up bagels when he stumbled upon an advertisement on a wall that was looking for a Chico State women’s lacrosse club team coach. O’Connell could not have been more excited and immediately contacted the team captains.

“The advertisement said no coaching experience required,” O’Connell said. “Number one, I have coaching experience. Number two, I have lacrosse coaching experience and number three, I have women’s lacrosse coaching experience. It was time to put in an application.”

O’Connell’s passion for the game started when he was in middle school. He played all throughout high school and beyond graduation. O’Connell simply could not give up the game he fell in love with at a young age.

When living in Chicago, he coached his first team — a men’s team. He then moved to South Carolina and began to referee women’s lacrosse games. After spending four years in South Carolina, he was able to be a referee in the South Carolina state finals. O’Connell then moved west to Chico and is now in his first year as the head coach of the women’s lacrosse club team.

O’Connell’s favorite part about coaching is being a part of a team again. The joy and the comradery that everyone shares is what makes coaching so special for him.

Over the last four years, the club team has posted a 15-22 record. However, O’Connell’s philosophy is that he has been here for this season, and this season has been great.

“We went out and beat UC Davis in the fall, and they are in a division above us,” O’Connell said. “We ran them off the field and that was fantastic. We went against our rival, Sonoma State, beat them … went against Cal State Fullerton, beat them.”

O’Connell is looking forward to the amount of potential his team has this year. Not to mention, the amount of energy they bring to the field is a key component to the team’s tight bond.

“I am really happy where we are with our skill level,” O’Connell said. “We are a really good team.”

Maddy Freeman, the president and team captain of the club team, embraces her leadership role through the way she plays. Freeman, a junior from Orangevale, also started playing lacrosse in middle school and her dedication to the game brought her on board the Chico State team.

“I feel like I came as one of the more experienced players,” Freeman said. “A lot of girls start playing later in school or even here in college. I use my experience as a way to lead.”

Freeman’s favorite memory came during her freshman year when they took a trip to Reno and grabbed a win within the final seconds.

“They (University of Nevada, Reno) are usually one of the most competitive teams we play,” Freeman said. “We won by one in the final few seconds and it was really fun. That is when it felt like we were a team.”

Lizeth Moreno, a freshman from San Jose, mentioned that she was nervous and hesitant when she got up here, but her nerves disappeared on the field. She has five goals through the first four games, putting her in third on the team with goals scored.

“It’s really exciting to see that I am playing well,” Moreno said. “I am building a good chemistry with my teammates. It’s been really fun coming out here and playing the sport I love.”

Moreno also mentioned that she wishes there were more players on the team so she and her teammates would not be so exhausted.

“It’s really tiring running back and forth on the field, so it definitely gets tough,” Moreno said. “It’s hard going up and down for an entire game.”

As O’Connell continues his first year as head coach, his passion and love of the sport continues to grow. 

Matthew Wreden can be reached at [email protected] or @MattWreden70 on Twitter.