Less than a year ago, Chris Kryjewski was in the planning stages of starting a lacrosse club team for South Bay.
He had pitches, he had assistant coaches and he had a management plan. He just needed players.
When the South Bay Vipers made their tryout debut on Nov. 1, nine players showed up. Total. It takes 11 for a team.
Since Kryjewski had already scheduled a few tournaments, he had neither the time nor the energy to sulk or worry.
He fielded a team in the Oceanside Challenge and then the Sandstorm in Indio.
“We had to borrow players from all over (in Southern California),” said Kryjewski, whose team actually finished second in their pool at Indio, which would have been great if only the first team place had qualified for the championships.
Flash forward now.
The South Bay Vipers have both girls and boys after offering girls-only lacrosse a year ago. With 16 players, all from South Bay, the Vipers and University City, which had six players, combined to win the ULAX Tournament at the end of the summer. They went 3-2 before winning the championship game, 10-4, beating North County’s Inferno.
After taking a break, he is already looking ahead to winter, when the South Bay team will play four tournaments.
The team includes Izabella Soderberg of San Ysidro High, who as a sophomore was named South Bay League Player of the Year, and Janesa Orta of Mater Dei Catholic, who last spring as a junior scored 56 goals.
Those who thought Kryjewski was starting a program to boost his own team at Castle Park High didn’t understand.
“We only have two players from Castle Park,” said Kryjewski, who was convinced to coach the Trojans field hockey team this fall. “We created the team to help schools in South Bay. Of course, it’s a double edged sword as players like Izabella and Janesa can come back to beat you.
In fact, Orta’s Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders beat Kryjewski’s Trojans for the league championship.
“But it’s not really like that,” Kryjewski said. “I’m very happy for Janesa and all the players at the club who are doing well. They broke their tails to get better.
“I don’t push my players to play for clubs. It’s there if they want it. There are lots of reasons why some kids can’t play at the club and that’s okay. Some of the lacrosse players are trying out field hockey.
Just another game with a stick.
But Kryjewski and Cynthia Perez as the girls’ coaches as well as Andy Barrios and Triston Corpus for the boys all believe the program is exactly where they expected when they laid out a five-year plan. The plan is to grow the high school boys and girls teams, then transition to all 10 middle schools in the district and after that hopefully into elementary schools.
The only other club program in the South Bay is Sting Lacrosse, which Kryjewski says is primarily for Eastlake High students.
“We don’t want to grow too quickly,” Kryjewski said. “It’s a five-year plan, and we’re happy with what some of the young people are bringing. Some have experience, some don’t, but they can all bring excitement to the game.
“Winning ULAX benefits the community. We teach determination not to give up, to finish what you started. We want to take lacrosse to the next level here. We are still not well respected in other parts of the county.
He talks about the All-CIF team last spring.
“We should have at least had someone like Soderberg, the league player of the year, in the second team,” Kryjewski said. “Or Victoria Trujillo, a sophomore (of Castle Park), a goaltender who only allowed 180 goals and saved 250. She saved 58% of her shots. That’s higher than most college players.
“A third player, Eden Hobson, Eastlake High’s Mesa League Player of the Year, was also nominated for All-CIF and should have made the team.
“Once these players realize how much fun this game is and the college scholarships available, it will take off. number.