Irondale girls lacrosse gets back to the basics

With seven starters among eight returning letterwinners from last year’s team that won ten games, the Irondale High School girls lacrosse team is looking formidable. First-year head coach Wendy Frantz takes over a team that is athletic and experienced.

“We have an unusually high number of extraordinary athletes this year,” Frantz said. “(These are) girls who are smart and strong in sports so we are going to keep improving every week.”

Frantz was an assistant under former Irondale head coach Jeff Hubbard and this year has John Ward and Dara Gruber on her staff. Ward, who has been a head coach in the past, was also on Hubbard’s staff last year, while Gruber is in her second year of coaching after playing lacrosse in high school and at the NCAA Division III level on the east coast.

Frantz has coached lacrosse for eight years and has been a certified lacrosse official for seven.

Leading the Knights once again is midfielder Sam Donovan, who has been the team’s leading scorer the past three seasons. Also known for her hockey prowess, Donovan is a captain along with fellow seniors Alex Welty and Harjas Gill, and junior Abby Ward.

Other top returning players include seniors Alex Toupal and Ashley Pettipiece and junior Kaiya Ruff.

Another positive for the program is the number of new players out for lacrosse this spring. Four of those newcomers are playing varsity or junior varsity and the rest have helped fill the roster for a B-squad team.

With a new head coach comes a new philosophy, and for Frantz that philosophy involves the fundamentals.

“With the new coaching staff, we are focusing on fundamentals until we’re sick of them and then doing them some more,” said Frantz, who added that Division I college team practice fundamentals anywhere from a half-hour to an hour every day.

“Coach Gruber is skilled at explaining concepts and breaking them down so all can understand,” Frantz said. “And Coach Ward has a brilliant mind for complex strategies. Put those together and we will only get better and better.”

Irondale opened the season with a convincing victory over district rival Mounds View last week. The Knights beat the Mustangs 8-2 on April 10 behind a six-goal performance by Donovan. Toupal added a goal and an assist, Maddie Hentges also scored and Pettipiece had a pair of assists.

On the schedule this week for the Knights are two games, starting with the home opener on Tuesday against Totino-Grace. Irondale goes back out on the road on Thursday for a game at North St. Paul.

Brian Meyers can be reached at


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