Sara Mitchem: From Newbie to Varsity Captain in a year


Kayla Myers

Within minutes of the starting buzzer, WO Varsity Girls Lacrosse has seven goals, leaving Kalamazoo United in the dust.

  Jr. Sara Mitchem shreds up the right sideline with the rest of the team. She sees an opening and perfect opportunity for a shot. Calling for the ball, Mitchem sprints through the gap, snags the ball out of the air, and takes the shot. The crowd erupts as the ball whizzes past the goalie and hits the back of the net. At 15:48 in the first half, Mitchem adds another goal to the scoreboard for the Panthers. The Panthers now lead Kalamazoo United, 8-0.

  Growing up, Mitchem always had a love for the game of soccer. Her sophomore year, Mitchem felt that she was more than ready to try out for the soccer team. However, she wasn’t as prepared as she thought. She went through tryouts and ended up not making the team. Mitchem was devastated. She was really looking forward to the soccer season. “I was really upset and talking to my mom about how I thought the tryouts went. She said that I should try out for lacrosse. Sally Davis talked to my mom and wanted more people to try out. My mom said it’d be a good way to stay in shape and distract myself as the soccer team continued to play. I had to decide between working more hours or lacrosse. In the end, I chose lacrosse because I wanted to be involved in something bigger than me,” Mitchem said.

  During Mitchem’s first year on the Varsity lacrosse team, their overall record was 10-6. For the first few games, Mitchem was given very little time on the field. However, as the season progressed, her lacrosse skills became stronger and she earned more time. “We have really enjoyed watching Sara improve as a lacrosse player over the past year. She came to us at the end of tryouts last year and had to really work hard in order to secure a spot on the team. However, we saw the potential she had, and it’s been fun witnessing her grow into the player we knew she could be. Her game sense has always been keen, but now she has developed the skills to go along with her knowledge,” Coach Jamie Slenk said. Mitchem put a lot of work into her gameplay both on and off the field, and it has really shown.

  As the 2015-16 lacrosse season came to an end and summer began, Mitchem made the decision to stick with lacrosse. Lacrosse had become such a big and important aspect of her life. “In the off-season, I worked on Sand Sharks, a travel lacrosse team. I also bought a rebounder so I could pass without my brothers. I feel like those two combined have really allowed me to develop my stick skills. I feel that my lacrosse skills have really improved through working on a club team. Last year I tried really hard to keep to myself and not get too attached to the other teammates since there was tension from me making the team,” Mitchem said. Having taken an extra step after the season, Mitchem’s skills greatly improved over the off-season. Her extra work has shown during tryouts.

  As the 2016-17 spring sports tryout season has come to an end and the teams have been finalized, Mitchem was more than excited to take on the new season. A few days before the first game of the season, the voting for the new captains was organized. Everyone gathered around and said who they would like to see lead the team for the year.

  During practice the next day, the girls gathered around the coaches, with high anticipation to see who would be helping lead the team to victory for the season. For the 2016-17 season, four captains were selected. Continuing on from last year, Holland Christian senior Aleah Bosgraaf is a captain along with WO Sr. Noemy Lopez, WO Jr. Scarlett Kellner,  and none other than Sara Mitchem. “I was so surprised when I found out that my teammates looked up to me. Becoming a Varsity captain was a really proud moment for me,” Mitchem said. Being a Varsity captain has given Mitchem a chance to not only enhance her lacrosse skills but enhance her leadership skills as well.

  Mitchem, along with the other captains, look out for the team. “Before games, the other captains and I go and meet the refs and the other captains. And we have weekly meetings with the coaches to talk about the mental health of the girls,” Mitchem said.

  While skills are important in lacrosse, and any other sport, being a team and looking out for one another is most important. As the team has emphasized throughout the season, they put the team above themselves. Mitchem provides a wonderful example of that. She is seen and heard cheering on her teammates and giving them pointers on where they can improve. All while improving the team, Mitchem is always asking where she can improve as well. She knows she’s not perfect because she is a captain. She knows everyone can improve somewhere. Mitchem sets a great example for the rest of the team and is a great fit for being a captain.

  Come out and see Mitchem in action at the next home game on May 1. The girls play Lowell High School at 7 pm at the Varsity football/lacrosse stadium.