For the first time in Pinecrest Academy’s 19-year history, a girls lacrosse program will get underway this spring.
Unlike most start-up programs, the Lady Paladins landed a head coach who has already won a Georgia High School Association championship — Jillian DiFazio. DiFazio was an assistant coach on Chattahoochee’s 2009 girls state title run, finishing the season 18-2-1.
DiFazio is a veteran in the lacrosse circuit. She played lacrosse at Randolph-Macon College (Div. III) in Ashland, Va., before playing professionally in Australia. DiFazio returned to the states and gained coaching experience with Swarthmore College (Div. III), North Springs and Northview.
Pinecrest athletic director Tom Palmer spoke highly of the newly installed coach and said her desire to teach the game and playing experience was instrumental in starting the program.
"She’s an outstanding lady," Palmer said. "She’s extremely well-qualified and just in talking with her, her enthusiasm and passion for the sport just spills out all over. I mean, she’s really into it and those are they type of people I like to be around."
Palmer said it was time the girls had the same opportunity to participate as the boys, who started play last year. He also noted the program will likely need 18-20 girls on the team, which will play a junior varsity schedule next season.
"We needed another opportunity for our young ladies, and this seems to be the viable right now," Palmer said. "Right now, we have 12 varsity sports and right now the only ones the girls can participate in [are eight]. It’s a pretty small window if you don’t like to run. You’re only choice to date was soccer.
"This was an opportunity to give them another road to go down for their athleticism. A sideline reason was that we had large numbers of girls playing soccer, and when you have large numbers, a lot of kids don’t get to play. So, I thought to myself that this might be another opportunity for girls to make a transition if indeed they chose to do that."
To jump-start the program, P.E. classes will focus on lacrosse when school begins to give perspective athletes a glimpse into the sport instead of waiting until a few months before the season starts.
"When school starts, instead of introducing [lacrosse] in January P.E. classes like we did [with the boys], we’ll be doing that in August," Palmer said. "So, it’s just a matter of whether the interest level builds. …It’s fair to say that there’s some genuine excitement about it."