Although the itinerary came together in a matter of months, this trip has been years in the making. For Mercer Island Lacrosse, it’s the next step in the process of growing the program.
Led by Islanders varsity boys’ coach Ian O’Hearn, who serves as the program director, Mercer Island has become one of the most popular areas for lacrosse in Washington. O’Hearn, who took the reins of the high school team in 2002 and became the state’s all-time winningest coach, also installed youth programs from middle school to kindergarten to help get children involved at an earlier age. As an upstate New York native, he knew he’d have to travel to play the best competition in the country.
But even with the steady growth of the sport, this trip wasn’t on the radar until last year, and it came about quite simply.
Ioulia Howard, who was born in Yaroslavl and emigrated to the United States just 17 years ago, regularly visited her relatives back home. She was planning a trip this year when she asked her son, Donnie, if he’d like to come.
Donnie Howard, a Boston University commit, said he would go if he could bring a friend.
“Sure,” Ioulia Howard said.
Time passed, and Donnie Howard came back with another proposal.
“Mom, what do you think if we could go all together?” he asked.
“What do you mean all together?” his mother answered.
“The whole team will go,” Donnie Howard said.
Ioulia Howard wondered what the team would accomplish in Russia.
“We are going to teach hockey players to play lacrosse,” Donnie Howard said.
That got the ball rolling, and Ioulia Howard and Ventsel have since helped hash out the details of an unprecedented encounter of two emerging lacrosse communities.