Jackson girls lacrosse young but talented

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent
Jackson's Chelsea Debevec scores a sudden death goal against Hudson to win the OHSAA regional lacrosse final at Revere, May 23, 2019. (CantonRep.com / Ray Stewart)

JACKSON TWP. The feeling around the Jackson girls lacrosse program has been a mix of different emotions as the 2021 season gets underway.

After missing the entire 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Polar Bears are returning to action nearly two years after their most recent season ended and with that long break comes a lot of unique challenges and experiences.

Veteran head coach John Kroah and his squad are embarking on a 15-game schedule that will see them, as usual, tackle some of the best teams in the area and state.

"I think everybody probably experienced the same kind of emotions coming off of the ride we all went on just about a year ago now," Kroah said. "It's been a roller coaster of a ride just to get to this point, but the girls have really learned that you don't take anything for granted."

In other seasons, coaches would spend a decent amount of time remaining players not to look ahead and to live in the moment. This season, Kroah noted, those reminders aren't as needed.

One year after watching the 2020 senior class miss out on its final season of high school lacrosse, this year's team has that memory fresh in its collective mind.

Because of the year off, this year's team features players in unprecedented spots. There are sophomores who have never played a single game at the high school level and seniors who didn't have the opportunity to go through a junior season in which they could see how that year's seniors lead the way and set an example for how seniors handle that leadership responsibility.

Jackson's  Chelsea Debevec takes on a Hudson defender in the an OHSAA regional lacrosse final at Revere, May 23, 2019. (CantonRep.com / Ray Stewart)

"That's yet another example of a class that loses a year and being rolled into a season where they have nothing to leverage and truly understand how it works," Kroah said. "They saw what it meant to those seniors getting it taken away from them and it gives them just another level of appreciation for this."

This year's senior class follows the program's recent pattern of alternating large and small seniors classes every other year. With only four seniors, the burden to lead is a bit heavier, but seniors such as Victoria Leonard have been part of the program throughout their careers and are now being asked to set the example for the squad.

"Victoria Leonard has been around the program and came up through middle school and has had quite a bit of varsity time," Kroah said. "She's been a great leader in just how she conducts and carries herself and her work ethic is stellar."

Juniors Chelsea Debevec, Allie Hartnett and Hannah Sanders are among the underclassmen who will play key roles this season and all three have committed to play at the next level as well. Debevec and Harnett are the squad's leading scorers from one year ago and both will play Division I lacrosse in college with Debevec slated to play for Ohio State and Hartnett for Davidson.

Sanders is a unique case because she's a junior in terms of eligibility, but according to Kroah, will have amassed enough credits by the end of this school year to graduate, The junior goalie has committed to play for one of the newer Division I programs in the country, the Akron Zips who are in their second season as a program.

All of that is in the future and for a team that learned last year how quickly the sport they love can be taken away, enjoying the 15 games ahead of them is the first order of business,