story by NATHAN LIVESAY photos by JOHN WOLLWERTH
Lacrosse is a huge sport in much of the United States and is slowly working its way across the low country. It is the newest sport offered at Beaufort High School and BHS has the good fortune of having two terrific first year head coaches fall into their lap. Alex Dorobantu and Meredith Rhinehart have long histories with lacrosse and their enthusiasm for the sport led both of them to reach out to the Beaufort High School athletic department seeking to help with their programs.
Alex Dorobantu, founder of Lowcountry Legacy Law Firm, was an assistant coach at BHS for the past two seasons before becoming the head coach this season. Dorobantu picked up lacrosse at White Station High School in Memphis, Tennessee after realizing he would have more opportunities in lacrosse than in their powerhouse basketball program. He continued to play in college and was a referee during law school and when he moved to Beaufort he reached out to volunteer his services as a coach to the high school.
The boy’s lacrosse program is entering their third season with only 1 win in program history, but matched that total with a 13-9 win over Islands High School in the 2019 season opener. The opener mirrors Dorobantu’s outlook for the season. “It has generated so much excitement and interest in the program, we think it is a real boost to the confidence in the players in our program.” Player participation has increased this year dramatically and instead of struggling to fill a varsity roster, the Eagles now have enough players for assistant coach Matthew Haigler to coach junior varsity squad of 16. “Three years ago we had 20 players, this year we have 43, ” said Dorobantu. This is a huge development for the program because players in Beaufort had to travel to Charleston or Savannah to play lacrosse prior to High School. All 16 of the junior varsity players are not only new to the team, but are rookies at the sport of lacrosse.
Dorobantu credits the growth in the program to the atmosphere and program culture he is working to build. “I tell the players I have been in their shoes, I was a first year player in a first year program so I understand what it is like to start a program from scratch.” He expects improvement from his squad this year due to the growth and confidence of the returning players. “We have two experienced players on both offense and defense and we are counting on them to lead us.” Senior Attackmen Ethan McKenzie and Connor Sackman are expected to lead the Eagles offensively and sophomore Ben Straut and junior Logan Statler are being counted on as the core of an improved defense. Dorobantu and the Eagles have their eyes set on improving to a .500 record and making the state playoffs for the first time this season.
On the women’s side, the United State Marine Corps brought a new coach to the lowcountry. Meredith Rhinehart arrived in Beaufort in July with her husband, a marine aviator, and set about looking for a place to continue her coaching career. Rhinehart played middle school and high school lacrosse in Annandale, Virginia before playing in college at William and Mary. She had coached at every stop of her travels courtesy of the Marine Corps. She was instrumental in starting a lacrosse program at Northside High School in Jacksonville, North Carolina before serving as head coach at Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego, California from 2015-2018. There she led her team to the 2016 CIF Division 1 championship and saw players go on to collegiate careers at schools from Arizona State to Princeton. In addition to her scholastic coaching experience, Rhinehart also coached high level club lacrosse for the Pacific Falcons and was a part of the selection committee and coaching staff for the 2017 Under Armour All-American Tournament in Baltimore, Maryland.
Rhinehart was thrilled to find out that Beaufort High School had a coaching opening and contacted the school and was shortly thereafter named head coach. She was hired in October and along with assistant coach Jim Smith the Eagles will field a squad of 19 girls – 13 of whom have never played lacrosse before. Rhinehart is excited about their energy, enthusiasm and willingness to learn. “I’m throwing so much at them with new concepts and trying to build a new culture in the program. They are doing their best to rise to the challenge while being hardworking and positive. I want them to learn to love the game and how to play it fully and play it well. I want to teach them to be good teammates, respectful competitors and to develop into a supportive, cohesive team.”
Rhinehart mentioned several players who have stood out so far in practice. Nicole Marsh, the senior goalkeeper and captain has been a phenomenal leader and coach on the field for a young defense. Senior Quyntessa Tyson and junior Lindsey Breaux are also midfielders and team captains who have been positive forces and willingly embraced the younger girls along with position changes. Rhinehart also mentioned the play of sophomore Amyah Todd, an athletic sophomore has picked up the game quickly. She also had high praise for assistant coach Jim Smith who she said has gone out of his way to make her transition smooth and makes a great effort to grow the game of lacrosse in Beaufort.
Rhinehart clearly loves lacrosse, but she also is excited about the opportunity to mentor high school girls. “I love to share the game with young athletes. It is the fastest sport on two feet. It takes incredible amounts of skill, athleticism and teamwork and it is exciting for both players and fans. I love that I can teach them about the game, but also about life. I enjoy helping them figure out who they are and what they stand for. I believe that healthy competition and an encouraging coach can make a huge difference in the life choices they make. If we teach character and teamwork first, I think the wins will follow.”