by Tom Utescher
There will be new faces on the sidelines at many local lacrosse games this spring, as no fewer than five teams in the area have new hires at head coach.
Springside has handed over the whistle to one of its own graduates, Lydia (Barber) Imperiale, and the Chestnut Hill College men’s and women’s teams will be piloted by Brian Dougherty and Katie Lee. Just across Stenton Ave. at Mount St. Joseph Academy, the Magic are now performing for Jenna Washabaugh, a 2006 Germantown Academy graduate. With Penn Charter coach and Girls Athletic Director Tori Small extending her maternity leave, the Quakers are also under new management as Mary Fran Riffel takes the helm.
Imperiale won Springside’s Phyllis M. Vare Award as a senior in 1997, then went off to play lacrosse at James Madison University. She renewed her formal ties with her high school alma mater last spring, becoming an assistant coach for the Lions’ lacrosse team.
She then took over Springside’s field hockey franchise last fall, so while her head coach title in lacrosse may be new, she’s already familiar with all of the players in her charge and with the current-day athletic program at her old school.
Both of the new stick squad skippers at Chestnut Hill College happen to be former goalkeepers. Dougherty is the second coach in the two-year history of the CHC men’s program, getting an early start after being brought on board last October. A product of Episcopal Academy in the Inter-Ac League, he went on to a stellar career at the University of Maryland.
A two-time first team All-American, he helped the Terrapins win the NCAA Championship in 1995, and was named MVP of the NCAA tournament. Both in that season and the following year he received the Ensign C. Markland Kelly, Jr. Award, bestowed annually upon the NCAA Goalie of the Year.
Stepping up to the professional level as a player in the National Lacrosse League, he then joined the ranks of Major League Lacrosse (MLL), playing for several franchises from 2001 to 2009, including the Philadelphia Barrage. He was also the goalie for the United States in the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships, capturing gold medals in both the 1998 and 2010 tournaments.
On the women’s side at CHC, Lee served as assistant coach for the Griffins last spring, and ascended to the top job later in the year. At the conclusion of her own scholastic career at Camden Catholic High School, she entered the nets at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP).
She served as a team captain for the Crimson Hawks from her sophomore year on, and was twice named team MVP. She set an NCAA Division II record for career saves with 961 stops, and once made 33 saves in a single game. She holds a master’s degree in sports studies and is the Director of Girls Lacrosse for the Cherry Hill Lacrosse Club in New Jersey.
In becoming the Mount’s new mentor, Washabaugh has returned close to her high school roots at Germantown Academy. At GA, she was a four-year varsity athlete in basketball and cross country as well as in lacrosse. In each of the three sports she was an all-league selection in the Girls Inter-Ac, and helped the Patriots win multiple league championships.
An honorable mention high school All-American, she crossed the Delaware River to become part of the lacrosse team at Princeton University. Playing in the midfield, she began to see action as a freshman and started in 15 games for the Tigers as a senior.
The new lacrosse leader at Penn Charter, Riffel, is a Bucks County native who attended Council Rock High School (now Council Rock North). During her four years on the team at Temple University, the Owls made the NCAA tournament field each season after winning the Atlantic 10 Conference championship.
She began her coaching career at the Villa Maria Academy lower school, then became an assistant coach at Great Valley High School and head coach for Penn State’s Abington campus team. She is the owner of the Envy Lacrosse Club and is the board secretary of the Philadelphia Lacrosse Association.