Scotts Valley High juniors Ellie Raffo, left, and Siena Wong helped the Falcons girls' lacrosse program get started two years ago. (Juan Reyes/Press Banner)

Scotts Valley High juniors Ellie Raffo and Siena Wong were instrumental in launching the girls’ lacrosse program two years ago.

The Falcons began as a club in 2020 that was shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year was their first season as a team sanctioned by the California Interscholastic Federation, but that season was highly modified and they were only allowed to play 8v8 against two teams within Santa Cruz County.

Raffo and Wong pushed their efforts in bringing the program back this season. 

The Falcons currently own a 7-1 overall record and they are 5-1 in Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division play after a 20-7 win against Santa Catalina on March 30. 

“Over time, our program has grown a lot,” Raffo said. “Especially seeing all the girls who originally started freshman year with us and how much they’ve grown. And it’s been really fun to work with everyone as a team.”

The Falcons are playing in their first full season since the program was introduced two years ago. 

Raffo has 14 goals and five assists in league play this season. She said it’s been nice being able to travel, going to practice and competing without all of the restrictions such as wearing a mask. 

“It’s definitely elevated the way we play,” she said.

Scotts Valley coach Colleen Niklaus said both players asked if she could continue to coach them and they’ve done a great job mustering more players to compete in the sport. 

“They’ve been really great at gathering all of the new players and really drumming up interest, so that’s been fun,” Niklaus said.

Addy Hulme and Olivia Kang are the two seniors on the team.

The rest of the upperclassmen includes juniors Francesca Barelli, Danielle Chace, Payton Dufour, Emma Dyc-O’Neal, Taylor Freitas, Emily Hulme, Livia Johnston, Gianna Mandujano, Olivia Tinetti and Amy Weiss.

Niklaus said the team is stacked with a great few returners and some new additions who have some experience playing at the club level. She said the upperclassmen have been instrumental in helping the young players develop their skills.

“They’re kind of everywhere,” Niklaus said. “It’s super great to see them in a leadership role and really hellp the new players.”

There are no sophomores but this year’s roster includes standout freshmen Taylor Santos and Sofia Niklaus.

Santos has fantastic stick skills, an amazing shot and has an affinity for scoring goals. She has a team-best 21 goals and 18 assists in five league games played.

Niklaus is dominant at the draw with 54 draw possessions and directs the ball straight to her teammates.

“We’re able to gain possession right away and really dictate the flow of the game,” Colleen said.

Colleen Niklaus said she’s been coaching her daughter, Sofia, along with Santos, Raffo and Wong since they were six years old as members of the Santa Cruz County Lacrosse Association Warriors recreational team. 

“There’s a dynamic out there on the field, they just click,” Colleen said. “They know where the other is, they know when the other needs support…and they’re really supportive of each other, so that’s great.” 

Other key underclassmen include Skylar Dufour, Michele Notice, Fae Peña and Kate Saiki.  

Raffo and Wong, who has 16 goals and two assists in league play, have been playing since they were in the third grade. Both have aspirations of competing at the collegiate level and in order to do so they thought it was necessary to start the program at Scotts Valley.

“It’s definitely growing,” Wong said. “I feel like it’s a lot more surprising that we have a girls team now and we don’t even have a boys team. I think it’s great that lacrosse is becoming more and more popular.”

Raffo, who verbally committed to play at UC Davis, said that it’s been incredible to watch the sport grow because it’s been primarily a sport played on the East Coast. She has high hopes that every school in the county will have a program. 

“The fact that it’s growing on the West Coast is awesome,” she said.

Scotts Valley’s lone defeat came in a 16-9 loss against Stevenson on March 16.

Niklaus said the Pirates could be the one team standing in their way to win a league title. They are loaded with four all-star players and they have a slightly stronger supporting cast that has experience playing year-round.

“We’re anxious for another go at them,” she said.

The Falcons will have a rematch against Stevenson in Scotts Valley on April 20 at 4pm.

Still, she’s optimistic about what the future holds for the Falcons. 

One of her goals for next year is to have enough girls to form a JV squad so that they can have an appropriate place for the new players to get playing time. It also gives Scotts Valley a developmental pipeline for the varsity level.

But, the season is young and the players have bigger goals to accomplish, including a berth to the Central Coast Section playoffs. 

“My goal is definitely winning the league and if it doesn’t come to us this year then that’s just going to make it extra enticing for next year,” Niklaus said. 

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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