Player to Coach: on Returning to Los Al

At the turn of the previous decade, lacrosse in Orange County was at a crossroads.  The sport had made its presence known and gained acceptance as a CIF sport in the Southern Section, but whether it would die out as a fad or continue to grow and gain acceptance as a legitimate option for athletes looking play at the next level had yet to be determined.

Like many things fighting to survive, lacrosse managed to find exactly what it needed to grow exactly when its need was most desperate.  It was around this time that a few groundbreakers led the way for future generations of lacrosse players by making a difference at the next level.  Showing that one did not have to grow up in a traditional lacrosse hot bed to play high-level college lacrosse seemed to fuel and sustain the growth of the game.

In the Los Alamitos area, this catalyst came in the form of , then a standout player and now head coach for the Griffins.

Aragon graduated from Los Alamitos in 2012 after helping the Griffins win three of their six consecutive Southern Section championships. She returned to the school as head coach this past season.

As a 12-year-old, Fia Aragon stumbled onto the game of lacrosse in a peculiar, yet certainly fateful, manner. She had just quit softball because she was, admittedly, “horrible” at it. She set her sights on volleyball, but that never got off the ground. But as she was driving around Seal Beach one day, a sign offering a free lacrosse clinic caught her eye. She attend and ended up enjoying it immensely. Aragon went on to attend the rest of the clinics end eventually joined Los Al’s inaugural youth team.

Aragon recalls being motivated by her family in the early days.

“My oldest sister was an all-star athlete, as was my dad,” Aragon said, “so I always wanted to compete with them and be the best at whatever activity I was doing.”

Meredith Meyran was another prominent role model. Meyran, along with her husband, Kevin, were perhaps the two most significant figures in spreading both girls and boys lacrosse throughout the Los Alamitos and Seal Beach areas. The Meyrans offered free clinics for interested lacrosse players, developed “Beach Lacrosse” youth programs, and coached both the middle school and high school programs at Los Al.

“An amazing coach who really knew her stuff,” Aragon said of Meredith Meyran. “She was able to treat us with respect while guiding us in the right direction on and off the field.”

When the right coach is able to influence the right player, championships inevitably follow. Like Phil and Kobe or Brady and Belichik, both Meyran and Aragon saw their fair share of prosperity while at Los Al. Meyran was named Orange County Coach of the Year multiple times. Aragon and her teammates won three consecutive CIF Southern Section titles from 2010-2012. There was no shortage of individual accolades for Aragon, either, as the captain was named Los Al Defensive Player of the Year (2011, 2012), first team all-league (2011, 2012), and first-team All-County (2011, 2012).

Like her introduction to lacrosse, Aragon’s recruiting journey also didn’t follow the prototypical path.

“It wasn’t until going into my senior year that I realized I wanted to continue playing lacrosse,” she said, “and everyone knows that is way too late to try and get recruited D-I.”

However, after joining a club team that summer, Aragon attended the President’s Cup tournament where she impressed a scout from . The next week, she went on an official visit to the school, and by the following week she was committed.

Fia Aragon, Fresno State
Fia Aragon scoops up a ground ball and looks to clear it, a common occurrence at .

Aragon enjoyed an illustrious career at Fresno State. As a freshman in 2013, she was named Fresno State’s Scholar Athlete. The next season, she repeated as the Scholar Athlete and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. Additionally, she was named to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation All-Academic Team. As a junior in 2015, she received Fresno State’s Defensive Player of the Year and Scholar Athlete award, and again was named to the MPSF All-Academic team. As a senior, she was named a captain and played her way onto the MPSF All-Conference second team. Aragon also repeated as Fresno State’s Defensive Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Scholar Athlete.

By the time Fia Aragon graduated in 2016, she held the school records for games started, ground balls, ground balls per game, caused turnovers and caused turnovers per game.

With her playing career officially over, Aragon assumed she had said goodbye to the game for good. However, five months after graduating, she was asked to become the head coach at her former school, Los Al. Like her role model, Coach Meyran, Aragon saw the value in being able to guide girls in positive direction both on and off the field, so she accepted.

“I was giving individual lessons locally,” she said, “and realized that the girls didn’t have too strong of a foundation, because of the constant coaching changes that have taken place the past few years at Los Al. Then I heard that school had started, and there was still no coach, so my heart went out to the girls and my Alma Mater.”

2017 Los Alamitos girls
Coach Fia Aragon and Coach Willie Villegas with the 2017 Los Alamitos varsity girls team.

In her first year as head coach this past spring, Aragon led the Griffins back to the playoffs.

“I am even more excited for this upcoming year, because now we have a foundation down, she said. “The team knows what I expect of them and vice-versa. Our plan as a team is to continue to grow at our own pace. I always tell my girls that it is not about perfection, but progression. So as long we progress I am happy!”

Things have come full circle for the former standout player who now leads the program she once played for, and if history is any indication, the Griffins are a good bet to return to championship form in the coming years.