The Oro Valley Wolverines High School lacrosse team capped off a memorable year with a win of Phoenix-based Desert Mountain earlier this month, in the Division II state championship game.
The club, coached by Christopher Gin, clinched its first Arizona Lacrosse League title with an 8-7 victory thanks to a game-winning goal by sophomore Cail Davis late in the contest.
The team, which is comprised of members from Canyon del Oro and Ironwood Ridge high schools, had the best record in the 10-team division this season—posting a 11-1 mark.
Gin praised his players for their ability to make history this spring, a feat he attributes to the squad’s chemistry on and off the field.
The Oro Valley native knows how far the club’s come, having played during its waning years a decade ago.
“I actually played for the club back in the day, and then I have been coaching with them for a good number of years now,” Gin said. “And to be able to see where this club started and to be a small part of bringing the first championship—seeing how much work the players and the team this year have put in—it’s really rewarding and makes everything worth it. I’m just extremely happy for all of the players involved.”
The Wolverines’ balanced offensive attack guided them through the year, with C.J. Mustain, Davis, Keaton Smith and Connor Morrison scoring at least 10 goals each.
Gin attributed the team’s egalitarian offensive success to the bond shared by players, which he said has been unrivaled in his time coaching the squad.
“They have a really good team camaraderie,” Gin said. “You can tell with a lot of teams, some of them like each other and some of them don’t. And this team is a really tight-knit group and it shows on the field. They play very well together, they work through things, they work through a lot of adversity together, and it makes it really fun to watch actually.”
Wolverine Nathan Grijalva, a junior at IRHS, said this year’s accomplishment is unrivaled by anything he’s experienced in his time with the club.
“It feels really good to be state champs, considering it’s Oro Valley Lacrosse’s first-ever championship out of the 11 years they’ve been around,” he said. “We all bonded together really well even though we went to rival schools. It was also special because a lot of us were first-year players and with great leadership from some of the veteran players it made the transition to play much easier.”
For Gin, getting to see the sheer elation on his elder players’ faces after their victory over Desert Mountain on May 3 was unmatched.
“This is an extremely long season, we had our fair share of difficulties, we had one of our senior leaders go out for the season right before it started,” he said. “They’ve faced a lot, and this particular group of seniors, they’ve gone through a lot as far as, they’ve experienced the ups and downs of participating in a growing sport. They stuck it through when the program and lacrosse was kind of struggling a little bit. And to see all their efforts come together, I think that’s my largest takeaway.”
Gin believes the sport, with roots as a war game used the Iroquois Tribe in Upstate New York through Canada, has a chance to grow exponentially in Arizona.
He hopes that this year’s Wolverines’ squad can be the first step in that growing process, giving future Oro Valley teenagers a source of inspiration.
“I would definitely describe it as an up and coming sport,” Gin said. “I would say that not very many people who try lacrosse ever leave lacrosse, and there’s not many sports that you can say that about.”