Coronado Lacrosse was a sport born of humble beginnings long before the dynasty it is today. History gives us a sense of identity; we are the Coronado Lacrosse Association, and this is our story.
Coronado Lacrosse shares similarities with the Bad News Bears. A real rags-to-riches tale that began one summer with a few local kids that had never seen, let alone held, a lacrosse stick. We could not have imagined that the unstructured, unsupervised fun we had learning to play lacrosse would become the juggernaut it is today.
A group of kids started lacrosse in Coronado; there wasn’t an adult in sight. When he was only 16, Rocky Spane brought the idea of playing lacrosse with him from the Bay area. Lacrosse didn’t exist on the Island and was still nascent in San Diego. Our generation grew up with Our Gang and Little Rascals. If you wanted something, you made it happen; you didn’t ask for help.
Rocky, Bob Breglio, and I, Clyde Van Arsdall, were all Navy brats who met in Bremerton, Washington, while our fathers’ ships were in the yard. As the Navy is a small community, we eventually landed back together in Coronado. Rocky was determined to play lacrosse and convinced us to try it. We headed to the only shop in San Diego that sold lacrosse gear and procured sticks and balls.
The year was 1984. We spent that summer honing our skills and playing bucket ball in Pomona Park. It took a little while for the other kids to take notice. My younger brother, Michael, and Bob’s younger brother, Bill, soon grabbed sticks, and when our good friend Michael Conners returned to town for the school year, he also joined the fold. Bob and I played Islander Football and recruited some guys on the team to join us. The team needed some big guys to play defense and weld the long sticks. We also required muscle; we couldn’t rely on finesse as our skills were still developing.
With our roster nearly intact, we decided coaches would be the logical next step. We hired young guys who played lacrosse for OMBAC (Old Mission Bay Athletic Club) to fit the bill; Mike Keegan and Doug Murphy. Keegan taught us the nuances and culture of the game. Murph drilled us on the fundamentals. They convinced us to join the official lacrosse league when ready, but we needed money.
The team organized a raffle and went door-to-door selling tickets. I am sure we ruffled the feathers of a few Girl Scouts along the way, but we were determined. We even held a Summer Dance at the municipal pool. Bob’s father, Commander Breglio, had some goals welded together on the Kitty Hawk and had patches embroidered for our uniforms while in Subic Bay, Philippines. We dubbed ourselves officially the Coronado Lacrosse Association and competed locally against the few teams in San Diego.
The first game against Point Loma was unforgettable. The very first lacrosse game in Coronado took place at the Cays. Our opponents took advantage of our lack of skills and brutalized us. Unlike youth sporting events today, there were fortunately very few parent spectators. That first game followed the old expression, “I went to a boxing match, and a lacrosse game broke out.” Yes, there were two bench-clearing brawls in our first game. Bob Breglio took one too many illegal hits; the last was a real sucker punch. Enough was enough. Point Loma Lacrosse was about to meet the Coronado football team. The game came to a screeching halt; we lost and went on to lose every game that season. Not an auspicious beginning. Losing did not matter to us. We loved every minute of it. The Dirty Dozen was born of blood that day. We were now thick as thieves and determined to carry on.
We soon lobbied Coronado High School, and lacrosse became a club sport. Our football coach, Dave Tupeck, gave us old Islander football jerseys, and we started to look like a team. Anyone who has played lacrosse knows it is difficult to learn, but that didn’t matter. What we lacked in skill, we made up for in heart. Lacrosse was our sport, and we were a rag-tag group of kids determined to take things to the next level.
After two years in the league a new coach stepped in as many of us were graduating and moving on to college. Some original team members who stayed on the west coast played in college. Bob played at Humboldt, and Rocky started another team at USD. Those who went out east for school were outmatched and transitioned to the stands.
What the original team accomplished is a testament to the times and our generation. Could this happen today without a lot of hand-holding or parents simply taking over? Youth back then were allowed to run with things, and run we did.
The original Coronado Lacrosse Association is proud of what Islander Lacrosse has become. When founding members watch games today, we can hardly believe our eyes. The skill, athleticism, discipline, and finesse are extraordinary.
I don’t use the term “dynasty” lightly. Coach Alex Cade has had the helm for 21 years; during that time, his teams have made seven CIF Championship appearances and won three. The program has had 17 CIF final four appearances, and won 15 conference championships. The Islanders have produced 35 high school all Americans and seven NCAA all Americans. In total there have been 95 collegiate players, 48 of which were NCAA. Still, we are pleased that it all started as a group of kids with tremendous grit and determination.
Founding Members of the Coronado Lacrosse Association:
Players: Rocky Spane, Clyde Van Arsdall, Bob Breglio, Michael Van Arsdall, Bill Breglio, Michael Conners, Jim Clark, Ian MacKinnon, Mike Shore, Chad Carpenter, Mark Adams, Brett Williams, , Tony Palcovic, Dan Gee, Jimmy Hathaway, Neal Burns, Terry Forney. Jack Bowen, Jim Lange
Coaches: Mike Keegan, Doug Murphy
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