Samir Chaudry coaches the young PCS team which includes two girls. (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)
Pacific Collegiate didn’t have a lacrosse team two years ago when Gus Samios was preparing to enter as a freshman. But Samios wasn’t going to let that minor detail stop him from playing the sport he loves.
At first, Samios, who started playing in the Harbor Lacrosse Club in sixth grade, thought he would try to get permission to play for the team at Santa Cruz or Harbor High.
Harbor coach Bob Rivers had another idea: Why not start a team at PCS?
Samios was skeptical. PCS was ranked the third-best academic public high school in the country in December by U.S. News, but isn’t known for its athletics. Samios was only 13 years old, and doubted anybody would want to take up a new sport to play with freshmen.
“There were only two or three of us that had ever played, so it seemed out of the question. It seemed like a huge thing to do that, something two eighth-graders weren’t capable of,” Samios said. “Bob Rivers really encouraged us. He said it was the No. 1 growing sport in Northern California and across the U.S., and that the rest of the coaches would be into having new up and coming competition.”
Samios and fellow freshman Rowan Sloss decided to go for it. They presented their case to Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League coaches at a scheduling meeting before the 2008 season, and began raising money for the team with weekly barbecues during lunch at school. They worked for six months fundraising, looking for a coach, buying equipment and uniforms,and finishing the paperwork to join the league.
“It seemed like it was going to be hard, but we both really, really wanted to play, so we were pretty much going to do anything to get the team started,” said Sloss, who started playing with the Harbor club in eighth grade.
The kids were successful. Last spring, they were part of the first team ever to put on a black and white PCS Pumas lacrosse uniform. Most of their teammates had never played before, and the team finished 0-14, but Samios and Sloss both said the season provided some of the best times of their lives.
“It’s amazing, I am just loving it. Last year was fun. We got crushed a lot and that was hard, but this year we came out and we beat SLV, beat Soquel, beat Santa Cruz,” Sloss said.
At 3-9 entering today’s 7 p.m. game at Aptos, Pumas coach Samir Chaudry said the team is improving everyday, with Samios leading the team in goals and Sloss as the Pumas’ defensive stopper.
“This whole year being the underdog, we’re showing a lot of schools that didn’t expect to be beat by PCS — the little artsy, academic school — that we’re for real,” Samios said.
Chaudry, who was an assistant coach last year and plays lacrosse for UC Santa Cruz, said Samios’s self-motivation has spread to the rest of the team, and that’s why the Pumas are finding success.
“It really comes from the kids,” Chaudry said. “They did a lot of stuff outside of practice to get themselves ready and become an organized lacrosse team.”
The team is so organized it raised the roughly $2,500 needed to fund the team and had about $500 left over to donate to PCS’s math department, Samios said.
“The school’s not as much oriented on sports, but they were so supportive of us, which made us really happy about doing it. We wanted the support to be a two-way road,” Samios said.
Now a sophomore, Samios said he’s taken a break from building organizations from the ground up. He’ll still work to improve his school as his class secretary, and is running for vice president in today’s student-government elections. He’s also taking flying lessons at Watsonville Municipal Airport and wants to earn his pilot’s license. He’d like to study aerospace engineering when he gets to college.
That’s two years away, though, and right now he’s focused on keeping his lacrosse team moving forward.
“The reason I started it was because I love lacrosse and it was not available to me,” Samios said. “I’m not going to not do it because of that. That’s not going to stop me.”