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Play For Coach K

With heavy hearts but determined spirits, on Thursday evening the Varsity Girls’ Lacrosse team won their first game without their beloved Head Coach Angie Kensinger, affectionately known as Coach K. Angie and her husband, Stuart, and four other Houstonians were taken from our community in a tragic plane crash Monday, with just a few weeks left in the lacrosse season. As game time approached on Thursday, the team chose to honor Angie in the best way they knew how – they decided to play for Coach K. The players’ parents invited all community members to come together for a pregame dinner at Caven Field. The game started with respectful words about both the Kensingers' role in the lives of over two decades of lacrosse players and a moment of silence followed by a prayer from Director of Spiritual Life Ned Mulligan. Sophie Caldwell, Class of 2019, sang the national anthem.

As news of her shocking and untimely death spread, former St. John’s lacrosse players, parents, and coaches started a group message in which they share memories, photos, and videos of the woman many called their “second mom.” Although they might have played for her at different times, they are all members of “Coach K’s Team.” With that thought in mind, they decided to show up Thursday night and support their Mavericks.

Elicia Moses ’98 played for Angie 20 years ago in her first year as the Varsity Girls Lacrosse Head Coach. She recalls how Coach K instilled the invaluable lesson of showing up. Angie taught them how important it is to “show up to practice, show up to games, even when you weren’t feeling well, or had a bad day,” Moses said. “Even if you had to sit on the sidelines for a bit, show up to support the rest of your team. [Angie] clearly has continued to teach her girls that same lesson as tonight they are showing up to play their first lacrosse game without their coach, their mentor, their friend.”

The field and the stands were covered with posters cheering for the players and honoring Coach K. In addition, every attendee at the game was given a ladybug pin to wear – a central theme in girls’ lacrosse that dates back to the early 2000s. Back then, the team traveled to Vero Beach, Florida for many spring break trips where Angie’s mom lived on Ladybug Lane. Ever since then, ladybugs have been the girls’ lacrosse team emblem. In addition to being the Mavericks, the girls created a mascot that was unique to their team. Players started sporting ladybugs on their shoes, shoelaces, athletic tape, and hair ribbons. Angie started a special ladybug tradition before big games. She would get bags of live ladybugs from a local nursery and release them with the team in the center circle of the field for good luck. The #ladybuglove continues to live on through all of Angie’s players and colleagues.

Last night’s referee, Scott Elmore, was a close friend of Angie’s and has been a referee for many girls’ lacrosse games. Arriving at Caven Field knowing Angie would not be there was very emotional for him. However, he said “the coaches did a fabulous job,” and it felt like “business as usual” once the game started. “They learned from a master who always trusted them and let them do their specific jobs, and they were splendid.”

There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from the city, state, and national lacrosse communities following Angie’s death. Kinkaid players wore red and white ribbons in their hair and gave St. John’s players roses before the Middle School lacrosse game. They even hung a sign on their stands that says “We play for Coach K.” Northwestern, Stanford, many SPC schools, and nearly every major lacrosse club (boys and girls) in the state of Texas have all expressed their condolences for the passing of a lacrosse icon. In the Northwestern vs. Ohio State game Thursday night, all of the players wore athletic tape with ladybugs on their wrists as a tribute to Angie. The lacrosse team at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin started an initiative for all teams to honor Angie in the upcoming SPC tournament by wearing red and white ribbons with her initials.

In her tenure as Head Coach, Angie led St. John’s Girls’ Lacrosse to 11 SPC titles and 12 State titles. But the legacy she left behind is so much greater than the game victories. While Angie achieved phenomenal success on the field, her true legacy as a coach and mentor can be summed up by one of her former student athletes, who told her, “Thank you for all you invested in us as competitors, as women and as human beings.” The St. John’s  community is stronger because of the investment Angie made in our young women. As the Varsity Girls' Lacrosse team finishes the final weeks of their season, they will no doubt have the support of all who knew Angie and Stuart. The team will play in the city finals against Kinkaid away on Monday night at 7 p.m., and, as always, they will play for Coach K with #ladybuglove.

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