Saturday, December 4, 2021
Owatonna senior Jenna Spatenka tries to get around her teammate Kialee Kleeberger during a practice scrimmage on Friday, April 9.


Huskies lacrosse features strong family ties

There’s a lot of new faces on this season’s Owatonna girls varsity lacrosse team, but Head Coach Dani Licht believes the Huskies will be better prepared than most teams to handle that adversity.

“I know for a lot of the schools out there the biggest concern was, ‘Oh my goodness, I lost a year with these girls.’ That’s a concern here too, but one of the bonuses for us specifically is that these girls are a family. Everything from off the field to on the field, these girls are all best friends,” she said.

Without knowing what her coach had said, senior Jenna Spatenka agreed.

“It’s like a family with how well we all know each other,” she said.

Fellow senior Grace Smith noted that one reason the Huskies are like family to each other is because they’re used to playing with each other.

“This year, it’s mostly juniors and seniors and we’ve all played together for a long time,” she said.

“I’ve been playing since seventh grade and I think just about all of these girls have been playing with me since then. We’ve been in this together since the beginning,” Spatenka added.

Licht mentioned that another reason this Owatonna team is so close is they enjoy each other’s company outside of lacrosse.

“These girls don’t just play lacrosse together. I think that’s the biggest thing that has created that family atmosphere. We’ve got a huge group of tennis players so they’re not only playing lacrosse together during the school year, they’re also playing tennis together during the school year,” she said. “One other oddball thing is I do work for the City of Owatonna and I run River Springs Water Park and half of these girls are already my staff and my players so they’re doing stuff with each other all year, which has helped create such strong friendships.”

Smith believes the Huskies’ tight-knit team bond will the strength of their team.

“We already, I feel like, have better symmetry than when I was varsity two years ago,” she said. “I know exactly what they’re going to do, when they’re going to do it so I know when to look for that pass or know they’ll back me up for defense. Since we do know each other so well, it just feels like it kind of fits together, like a puzzle.”

Licht agreed that the Huskies’ strong team bond should help them on the field.

“I think sometimes that even boosts their talent that much higher because they communicate really well with each other and the positivity is there. I think one of the biggest things that can kill a team is negativity and not being able to rebound and lift the team back up after a goal is scored on them and not a concern with this team at all. Obviously, us as coaches encourage as well, but it’s nice to also have that encouragement on the field not only from the coaches but also from the players,” she said.

It’s not just the coaches that notice that positivity. Smith noted that she and her teammates know that mistakes will be made and know how to have each other’s backs after that happens.

“I’d say that everyone is really encouraging of each other and very supportive,” she said.

Licht believes the team’s positivity and team chemistry helps all her student-athletes enjoy playing lacrosse together and enjoy their time together.

“You’d love to come practice and games every day if you got to come and spend the whole day with your best friends. Not only are we here to play lacrosse, but we’re also here to have fun. Yes, we do like to put some wins and I know that we definitely will have a very successful season in that area this year, but it’s also just nice to spend the day with your friends.

“I think that’s one of the biggest things we as coaches have had to focus on this year, especially with them not having a season last year, we know that that mental health component and the friendship component is also something that we have to focus on. Yes, I’m here to coach these girls but I’m also here to build them as people and help them grow and be able to succeed even after a not-so-great last year that we all had to endure together,” she said.


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