Sue Gallagher is not only the longest tenured girls lacrosse coach in the Frontier League, she is also the coach that started it all before there was even a girls varsity league in the area.
Now after 16 seasons as head coach of the Carthage girls varsity team, Gallagher is stepping down as head coach.
“I definitely had a lot of fun,” Gallagher said. “I’ve always enjoyed working with kids and I’ve loved athletics, working with kids that always want to learn more. I’ve found that our girls are always like that, they’re eager to learn and continue to get better and they’re passionate about the sport.”
Gallagher, who will also retire in September after 32 years as a physical education teacher at Beaver River and Carthage, was the first girls varsity lacrosse coach in Jefferson County and even much of the north country.
“I know it’s time,” Gallagher said. “If I really felt like I wanted to still continue to coach, I would probably still teach and wouldn’t worry about retiring right now, but I know it’s time to step down from both of them.”
After Alan Dingman founded the Carthage girls lacrosse program in 1998, the Comets took the field for the first time at the varsity level in 1999 with Gallagher as head coach.
“I just started out as an interested parent,” Gallagher said. “And eventually at an informational meeting, they said ‘all we need is a coach’ and I said I would be interested. And things just happened from there.”
In all, Carthage has gone 221-81 with Gallagher at the helm and has won six Frontier League championships, first in 2002, and then five straight titles (2006-10).
The Comets have won five Section 3 titles — with three in Class B (2006-08) and two in Class C (2009-10).
Carthage has reached the state semifinals four times and competed in a state championship game two times, in 2007 in a 16-8 loss to Garden City in Class B and in the 2010 Class C final by Shoreham-Wading River, 10-9.
“I can remember since the very beginning that we’ve always had very athletic kids who have always wanted to play lacrosse,” Gallagher said. “They were hard working kids and in the early years we focused on fundamentals and we did an awful lot of running. ... So we were successful right from the very beginning and that first year we had a sectional game right off the bat.”
Under Gallagher’s tutelage, five Carthage players were recognized as scholastic All-Americans — with Sara Gallagher (Mt. St. Mary’s) and Gabrielle Kamide (Le Moyne) honored twice — and Emily Widrick (Rutgers), Katherine DeRonda (Northwestern) and Kaliah Kempney (Syracuse) once.
Two Comets went on to become collegiate All-Americans — Erin Gallagher (SUNY Cortland) and Katie Ferris (UMass).
In all, 37 players from the Carthage program have gone on to play collegiate lacrosse, with an additional seven graduating this year who plan on playing as well.
“That’s probably what I’m most proud of, is seeing these girls move on to the next level and them getting an education,” Gallagher said.
After playing an independent schedule in 1999, the Comets went 15-1 the next season and reached the Section 3 final. In 2001, Carthage won 16 games and competed in another sectional title game.
The Comets won another 16 games in 2002 and won the first Frontier League championship, with General Brown, Immaculate Heart Central, Indian River and Watertown, as well as Canton and Heuvelton, as the original teams in the circuit. South Jefferson joined the league in 2003.
Carthage hasn’t yet named a new varsity girls lacrosse coach, according to Gallagher.
“I think to have a really successful program now as a head coach you have to put in a tremendous amount of time in the offseason to be successful,” Gallagher said. “And that’s one of reasons that I’m stepping down because I can’t put that time in anymore. ... I just don’t believe in coaching a team unless I know that I can get the most out of the kids.”