Orange County shows St. John’s Southern (California) Hospitality

MaxlaxOC shieldSt. John’s of Houston boys’ lacrosse team spent their Spring Break in Orange County playing local high school teams St. Margaret’s, Newport Harbor, Corona del Mar, and Sage Hill. They also took a Sunday drive up to Santa Barbara where they played two games at Cate School.

Ben Palitz (5) has time and space.
Ben Palitz (5) has time and space.

Sam Chambers, former University of North Carolina player, has been coaching St. John’s Boys Lacrosse for 22 years. For 19 consecutive spring breaks, they have traveled as a team during play lacrosse in different places across the county; Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Florida. St. John’s has played San Diego and San Francisco, but this was their first trip to Orange County, thanks to CdM’s Lacrosse Director and Head Coach, G.W. Mix.

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Mix was instrumental in putting together the itinerary but says the pleasure was all his. “Sam Chambers is a good guy. He has a very good sense of himself, a solid perspective on life and an excellent demeanor for coaching young men.” Chambers and Mix met in 1991 while Mix was the head coach at Penn. He traveled to Houston along with his two assistant coaches – Bill Miller – Hall of Fame attackman from Hobart and Dave Pietramala- Hall of Fame defenseman and current Johns Hopkins coach- to establish the Lone Star Lacrosse camp in Texas. Mix remembers, “We worked closely with the area high school coaches to help them further develop the growth of lacrosse in Texas. Back in the early 1990s Texas lacrosse was experiencing a significant growth spurt, much like we have experienced here in Orange County recently.” Chambers and Mix have been close ever since.

Hoyt Crance makes another save.
Hoyt Crance makes another save.

Chambers said the recent trip definitely stands out as one of their best. “G.W. Mix did a fantastic job helping us to set up some of the games. I know a lot of the coaches and reconnecting with them was special for me.” Chambers was quick to point out that everyone in Orange County hosted St. John’s with hospitality and warmth and that the opponents and fans were great. “Secondary to the scores was being a part of the lacrosse community.” He added that the “teams were welcoming, beating us with class.”

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G.W. speaks of viewing his players as “Keepers of the spirit” of lacrosse, explaining, “We always try to welcome teams from outside of California who wish to travel out here and play us. We usually host the game with a meal afterward. I think it promotes what the game is truly all about – competition and fellowship. We always look to schedule teams who share similar values and vision.”

Chambers is sure that this past week in Orange County “is something that will stay with [the boys] forever.” Playing on the scenic grass field at the base of the Balboa Pier on a warm, sunny afternoon with a full moon rising was definitely a highlight.

Newport Harbor’s Head Coach Mark Todd said, “We always try to accommodate our guests from out of state with something special like the beach field…It’s one of the most amazing places in the country to play and it still thrills even our own players.”

Chambers told his team that if they won, that he, and Assistant Coach Whitmore would jump into the ocean. After St. John’s scored against Newport Harbor in overtime, Chambers was the first one in the chilly Pacific.

As the sun sets on another St. John’s Spring Break, the scores will fade, but the memories are seared into the hearts and souls of all who took part.

Special Contributor Jill Fales
Photos Courtesy of Jill Fales and CdM Lacrosse