â€œNothing is impossible. We can do what we want to do as long as we put our mind to it.â€ Thatâ€™s the message that spurred the Eastern Eagles girlsâ€™ lacrosse team to its best season in school history. These words, eloquently spoken by Head Coach Rylee Huffman, have revamped the lacrosse program at Eastern. Having finished two seasons as head coach, she says coaching was something sheâ€™d always wanted to do after playing at Kentucky Country Day School from grades seven to nine.
â€œMy coach, Patrick McAnulty, had such a positive influence on my life that I decided that (coaching) was something I wanted to do when I got older,â€ Huffman says. â€œI never finished my high school career in lacrosse and never got the chance to play in college. So I really wanted to reach out to girls and help them get to play at the next level.â€
In her short tenure as head coach, Huffman has gotten the attention of many in the lacrosse world. Coaches in different conferences and around Kentucky gathered and, based on Huffmanâ€™s accolades, sportsmanship, mentorship and overall love for the game, they chose her as the 2015 Kentucky Scholastic Lacrosse League Coach of the Year.
â€œIâ€™m just honored that the other coaches that voted me into this saw the hard work that I have put in,â€ Huffman says. â€œI think Easternâ€™s program has been unstable for the last 10 years, and I think just being a stable figure in their everyday life and on the field has helped us to get to that point to be successful.â€
The team ranked fourth in Kentucky with a record of 10-9. Huffman, who is modest about her coaching expertise, just credits her players for being receptive to her guidance.
â€œI have a great group of girls,â€ she says. â€œI am just lucky I have 20 kids that really come to practice every day and dedicate themselves. They put their trust in me and listen and are willing to learn new things. That is definitely the biggest key. They do what I ask all the time and listen to what I have to offer, so we can win and be the best program we can be.â€
Huffmanâ€™s team this season was nothing short of the best in school history. They beat teams they never have before and placed in multiple championships. For Huffman, this yearâ€™s greatest joy was making it to the state tournament.
â€œOur whole season revolved around us making it to the state tournament,â€ she says. â€œI said, â€˜If we keep pushing, we will make it there.â€™â€
Two players have even signed with colleges. Center Dominique Gibbons, a Kentucky All-State player, signed with Central Michigan University, a Division 1 school. Sheâ€™s the most highly recruited player to come out of the program. Abby Hoskins, who played defense, signed with Lincoln Memorial University, a Division 2 school. Both were â€œreally easyâ€ to coach, Huffman says.
â€œIâ€™ve known them for four years. It goes back to me being a stable figure for them and something that they love. Both of them share the same passion I do for the sport. Both of them are really great kids.â€
Looking forward, Huffman believes this season will be a vehicle toward years of success. Her underclassmen had the chance to see what itâ€™s like to be successful, and now they know thereâ€™s no feat too large for them to complete.
Reflecting on such a remarkable season, the greatest lesson thatâ€™s resonated with Huffman this year is the same message that spoke volumes to her players: â€œNothing is impossible. That is definitely the biggest lesson Iâ€™ve learned.â€ VT