San Benito lacrosse: A new era begins

San Benito High lacrosse players clockwise from bottom left: Bryan Noble, Kane DeAlba, Elijah Riddle and Tyler Benedetti.

One of the fastest growing sports in the nation has come to Hollister.
For the first time in school history, San Benito High will field a lacrosse team, and judging by the turnout, the sport will thrive here for many years, if not decades.
“We’ll keep 50 kids, 25 for the varsity and 25 for the junior varsity,” Haybalers coach Don Jones said. “We’ve already made one round of cuts, and we’re going to be doing a second round of cuts once all of the players from the winter sports try out. We’ll be keeping 50 kids total.”
Jones, 47, played a couple of years of club lacrosse while he attended San Jose State in the early 1990s. For the last two years, Jones has been a high school lacrosse referee, and he’s also played in some indoor adult men’s lacrosse leagues over the years.
“Playing and being a referee helps to keep you up to date with all of the rules and just giving you the capability to coach and teach,” said Jones, who along with his wife, Susan, started the Hollister Free Wheelers, a power soccer wheelchair team, 18 years ago. “I had the most fun playing lacrosse than any other sport I played growing up, including basketball, football, tennis, and golf. Being a part of the first lacrosse program here is pretty exciting. We’re pretty much starting from scratch, and I’m having a blast. We have a lot of skillful players, and the kids are taking to the game quite well.”
After a tournament in San Jose on Saturday, the Balers will jump into league play next week. The team started practicing on Feb. 1, and not surprisingly, Jones has emphasized the fundamentals of the game—catching ground balls and throwing, just to name a few—in practice.
“There’s a big learning curve for this sport, but these kids are up to the task,” Jones said. “They’re passionate about it, and it makes coaching much easier.”
Jones said he’s particularly excited because all of the players have shown a willingness to learn and work hard. However, four players—seniors Bryan Noble and Elijah Riddle and freshmen Kane DeAlba and Tyler Benedetti—have looked particularly impressive in practice.
Noble, who was a linebacker on the CCS championship-winning football team in December, has boosted the team with his toughness, both mentally and physically.
“Bryan has been a great leader for everybody, even though he’s just picking up the sport,” Jones said. “He’s always positive, works hard and is always encouraging others. That’s nice because lacrosse can be a very frustrating sport at times.”
DeAlba was one of the first players who inquired about playing goalie, while Benedetti and Riddle continue to impress by going all out in every practice session.
“Everyone is working just as hard, but these four just stand out a little more than the others,” Jones said. “Our guys are strong willed, and we’re going to have the opportunity for a couple of wins.”

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