Ryland Huyghue admitted he did not know what to expect when he accepted the offer to coach the Santa Monica Vikings Varsity Lacrosse team. The sport has been his life's passion since he first picked up a stick at the age of 7 and now he is passing his knowledge and enthusiasm to the next generation.
"When I first got here some of the parents asked me what was going on and I thought 'Uh, oh, what did I do?'" Huyghue recalled. "They said 'By the end of your first week our kid were listening to us for the first time.' I was making good money as a salesman in corporate America but this is what I love doing most. I enjoy the kids and all of the families have really embraced me."
Santa Monica Vikings Lacrosse is a club program that participates in the Pacific Lacrosse League. Though not an official sport at Santa Monica High School, the team practices on campus and enjoyed unprecedented success this season with the arrival of Huyghue, one of the United States' most decorated players.
Huyghue played football and lacrosse at Nassau Community College in New York and turned down football scholarships from schools like Ohio State, Iowa State and Rutgers to play lacrosse for the University of Maryland. Since moving across the country in 1982, Huyghue has spearheaded the development of lacrosse in California. He is a five-time MVP of Orange County Lacrosse Club and won four state club titles. He served as president of the California Lacrosse Association for 12 years and has coached at Cal State Fullerton, UCLA, USC and Occidental College. Huyghue is also largely responsible for re-instating exhibition lacrosse at the 1984 Olympics.
"I try to keep it simple and make sure that the players do what they do well," Huyghue said. "I stress fundamentals and consistency--passing, teaching the right mechanics, knowing where to clear the ball and where to be on certain plays."
With a 12-2 record, the Vikings ended the season rated No. 4 in California by LaxPower.com among non-CIF sanctioned high school teams. The Samo club also fields junior varsity boys and girls junior varsity squads and almost all of the 30 players either live in Santa Monica or attend Samohi.
As general manager of the program, Chris Carrico is dedicated to growing the sport in the community through marketing and the internet. He is optimistic about the team's future under Huygue and is working towards transitioning it from club status to a CIF-sanctioned sport.
"What Ryland has done since he got here is tremendous," Carrico said. "Last year we went 6-5 and missed the playoffs. Now we're one of the best teams. Just like a high school team, we practice three or four times a week here [at Samohi] and we have games as far away as Pasadena, Santa Clarita and the South Bay. I grew up in New Hampshire and played lacrosse in middle school and high school and since I moved here [in 1994] I've wanted to make it as popular here as it is on the East Coast."
Santa Monica Vikings Lacrosse was founded several years ago by Jeff Townsend, a Santa Monica native and parent of two Samohi students. Townsend's son, Tommy, grew up playing with Carrico's son, Cody, in the West LA Lacrosse League at Cheviot Hills Recreation Center. Both boys were named to the Pacific Lacrosse League All-Star team--Tommy as one of the Vikings' leading scorers (he had 63 goals going into the playoffs) and Cody as the goalie.
Four other Samo players made the All-Star team: attacker Andrew Laron (68 goals in the regular season), short-pole middie Micah Sykes, long-pole middie Mykal Huygue (Ryland's son) and defensive captain Duncan Spencer, a senior who plans to continue his career at Arizona State.
"I was going to play football, but I tore my lateral miniscus over the summer [before my sophomore year], I've played lacrosse ever since, and I've gotten much better," Spencer said. "Coach [Huygue] has helped us all improve a lot."
After losing their season opener, 5-4, to Oceanside El Camino on February 25, the Vikings reeled off 11 straight victories to close the regular season, winning by an average margin of 15 goals per game. Then they ousted defending state champion Simi Valley, 18-10, to advance to last Sunday's Southern California finals versus El Camino at Torrance High. This time Samo fell by a score of 10-8, but it was a breakthrough year in which the program made great strides.
2012 SAMO VARSITY LACROSSE RESULTS
Date Opponent Score
2/25 El Camino L, 5-4
2/28 St. John Bosco W, 10-1
3/10 El Segundo W, 15-1
3/17 Pasadena W, 18-2
3/24 Long Beach W, 13-2
3/31 Glendale W, 19-2
4/14 Granada Hills W, 18-3
4/18 Torrance W, 10-6
4/21 El Segundo W, 15-2
4/28 Long Beach W, 21-1
5/05 Torrance W, 12-8
5/12 Long Beach W, 18-1
5/19 Simi Valley W, 18-10
5/20 El Camino L, 10-8