BOONE — New Watauga girls’ lacrosse coach Julia Harrison wanted to stay close to the sport after graduating from Reagan High School in Pfafftown.
After playing four years at Reagan, and playing several years for the NC Elite Women’s Lacrosse Program, Harrison saw a chance to coach the Pioneers while attending Appalachian State.
She took a chance at pursuing the job and was named the team’s new coach Feb. 4.
“I was actually looking for a job opportunity and my friend sent me the link,” Harrison said. “I immediately started applying because I played in high school and have a humongous love for lacrosse. I got it and it was a good idea for me.”
Harrison takes over a program that finished 2-9, 2-7 in Conference 10 in 2019. The Pioneers beat Mooresville 14-6 and St. Stephens 9-8 under head coach Gabrielle Knight, who was the program’s coach in 2019.
Harrison, a sophomore who is a communications major at App State, played mid-fielder at Reagan and helped Reagan reach the Sweet 16 in the playoffs during her sophomore year.
Harrison, as most first-year coaches usually are, is anxious to get started with the Pioneers. She said some of the returning Watauga players have already emailed her.
Harrison said the Pioneers will practice for the first time on Feb. 12.
“I’m going to have the girls show up, with hopefully the majority of their equipment, and get well-trailed by getting used to the stick and by wearing the equipment if they haven’t done that before. Then we will start with the basics and the foundation of lacrosse.”
Harrison is aware that there is no lacrosse in the Watauga County middle schools and that she will be coaching a lot of players who are picking up a lacrosse stick for the first time.
“I assume that a bunch of them haven’t played before,” Harrison said. “They are incoming freshmen or they want to try something new. Once I work with the girls who never played before, then we can do more advanced things for the older girls who haven’t been playing for a while and get the girls used to the sport of lacrosse.”
Learning the basics of throwing and catching the lacrosse ball is harder than it looks, according to Harrison. She said the lacrosse sticks used by girls have a smaller pocket to use to do both, which makes controlling the ball difficult.
She added that the lacrosse ball is smaller than a baseball, but hurts if it hits a player who isn’t wearing padding. Getting used to the ball traveling at high velocity takes a while.
“You have to learn where to catch it just right in the middle of the stick so it doesn’t bounce out,” she said. “You also have to absorb the ball in the catch knowing how hard it’s going to hit your stick.”