3 La Jolla lacrosse players get set for national tournament

The Bishop's School student and lacrosse player Kate McCool in action.

Three La Jolla athletes have been selected for a national lacrosse tournament considered the sport’s most prestigious high school tournament of the summer.

La Jolla High School student Billy Stephens, 15, La Jolla Country Day School student Sophia DeJarnette, 14, and The Bishop’s School student Kate McCool, 15, will compete in teams composed of athletes from across the country.

The Under Armour All American Lacrosse Classic Underclass Tournament features two divisions from each region — from West to upstate New York — for each gender. Each division in the Midwest, West and Southwest regions will compete this weekend at the West Super Regional in Indiana, and the main event will follow in Baltimore to determine which region is the best.

The tournament schedule was altered because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Billy said he’s been “counting down the days” until his flight to Indiana to participate in the West regional. As a goalie, he’s prepared to be the eyes and ears for his team, he said.

“You have two jobs as goalie — stop the ball and getting it to your players to get it back to offense,” he said. “I’m the last line of defense, so if it gets past everyone, it all comes down to me. A lot of people say that goalies are the quarterback of lacrosse because both teams are right there. Defense can’t be looking at everything at once, but I can. ... I’m pretty good at communicating with my defense and making sure we are on the same page.”

La Jolla High School student and lacrosse player Billy Stephens.

Billy has been playing lacrosse since third grade and likes being part of what he calls something bigger. “I can’t win a game on my own and the offense can’t win a game on their own, they need defense,” he said. “And defense can’t score goals. When we win or lose, we do it together.”

Billy said he’s looking forward to representing the West Coast, which he sees as “an up-and-coming” area for the sport, and seeing how the Midwest plays. “The East Coast is a powerhouse for lacrosse, but the Midwest is quieter, so I’m looking forward to seeing them,” Billy said.

Sophia said she agrees that lacrosse is growing in popularity on the West Coast.

La Jolla Country Day School student and lacrosse player Sophia DeJarnette.
La Jolla Country Day School student and lacrosse player Sophia DeJarnette.

“I’ve played in a couple of tournaments on the East Coast and the level of play there is higher,” she said. “But in San Diego, I’ve seen it grow and more programs have ... started and I think that it is becoming bigger out here, which is exciting.”

The midfielder has been playing for four years and said she enjoys the camaraderie on her team.

“I love being part of the team and meeting people and having friendships with my teammates,” she said. “As a midfielder, I take the draw for my team a lot [when the referee places the ball between two players’ sticks, blows the whistle and both players try to gain possession], which I love. It helps the team so you can bring the ball to the goal. I love it because you can play attack or defense. You get to do everything on the field.”

Though Kate lives on the West Coast, she will play for the Southwest team (she had another commitment during the West team tryouts). She said she regularly travels to compete with club teams during the summer.

“I played for Mad Dog [lacrosse] for a few years but I decided I wanted to play at a higher level … so my family and I started looking at teams that have the best lacrosse,” Kate said. “That was a good decision for me. Playing with girls that have been playing since they were young has ... improved my skill level and the knowledge of the game itself. I love my team out here and my coaches. It’s a different style, it’s much faster and I had to improve my stick skills.”

For the Under Armour tournament, “I’m excited to play against the other teams,” she said. “They represent the highest level of competition. I thought it was a really cool concept to have different teams for different regions.”

In addition to lacrosse, Kate plays soccer and field hockey for Bishop’s.

“The thing I love about lacrosse is how fast-paced it is,” she said. “It’s action-packed and there is always something going on. There is something about how quickly the game goes, and I think it’s just a really fun sport. It takes a lot of creativity and teamwork. ... Even if one girl is out of place, that can result in a goal. I love how everyone has to work together constantly. You have to be really active in the play. It’s very exciting to be on the field.”

To learn more and watch the tournament games, go to ◆