When you drive by Culver City’s high school athletic field, the first thing you notice is the Jerry Chabola football stadium. You see kids playing soccer, running track and playing football. Then you see a lot of kids carrying lacrosse equipment. Kids of all ages get out of their cars and head to the lacrosse field.
“My dad (Jerry) and I started the lacrosse program 20 years ago with the help of Dave Hoffman (former Culver City Mayor),” said Culver City varsity lacrosse coach Casey Chabola. “Eight years ago, I started the youth program with the help of Devin Maxwell and other assistant coaches who are mostly Culver City alumni that are giving back to the program.” Hoffman’s company, Fold-a-Gold, was also responsible for donating equipment for the program.
When Chabola attended college, he wanted to play baseball, but that did not work out. “I wanted something else to do so I started playing lacrosse in college. In Culver City, we give kids the opportunity to play a sport that must kids don’t play.”
Now the program is one of the best in Southern California, and the high school team was ready to have one of the best seasons in school history before the coronavirus stopped the world.
“We started league play 2-0 and we were 4-2 overall with a couple of close losses,” said Chabola. “We were very excited about this year. It was the first year that we were going to be in CIF and have CIF playoffs this year for the first time in lacrosse history.” They were in CIF Division 2 and they were ranked No. 6 in the preseason. “We thought we were going to have a good shot at going pretty deep into the playoffs this year.”
Chabola knew he had the right combination. Although he had no seniors on the team he had a group of battle tested freshmen, sophomores and juniors. “It’s a group that has been together for a long time. They grew up playing together and to know this team has another year to be together gives them something to aim for going forward.”
With a veteran team returning next year, Chabola knows there will be a target on their backs. “The expectations are going to be really high for this team next year and they know that. We have been working towards this for four and five years. It was our time to shine this year and that’s why it was so disappointing that the season ended early.”
Although there were no seniors on the team, players still felt the displeasure. “The players were disappointed,” said Chabola. “They were very disappointed because they put in a lot of hard work during the off season and to get all the way to the beginning of the season and have this happen. It’s tough.”
This year’s team was led junior captains, Justin Beighey, Quinten Brunson and Ray Sugiyama. “We also had a lot of sophomores who were in their second year of varsity that were contributing as well,” said Chabola. “Our younger players had success in the past. Some of them won championships at the Culver City middle school.”
Culver City’s lacrosse programs are in good hands thanks to the Chabola family and many other coaches and community leaders. “It’s amazing,” said Chabola. “My dad set the path. He showed me the example to be able to build a community around sports. All I had to do was pay attention and follow and emulate what he had done. Sports brings families together and that’s what Culver City is all about.”