On the Sunday afternoon of a long Patriots Day weekend, John McVeigh , the former Andover High girls lacrosse coach who resigned in November, made the trek down to Storrs, Conn., where the UConn Huskies defeated Big East rival Louisville, 12-11, in a thrilling overtime game.
In the game, Catherine “Cat” Gross , a 21-year-old senior on the team, scored a goal.
The former Andover High School Golden Warrior played under the tutelage of McVeigh and was a two-time All-American, graduating in 2009 as one of the most accomplished lacrosse players in Andover High School history. Before her, big sister Briana , ’07, was an All-American in her own right. Now, the youngest of four Gross children, Louisa “Weezie” Gross , a 17-year-old junior, is looking to leave her mark on the program as well.
If there’s one thing that everyone is certain of, it’s that the Gross kids are lacrosse pioneers everywhere they go.
When McVeigh first met the Gross family in 2001, Weezie was just 5 years old, running around with a lacrosse stick in the shadow of her older sisters. The two older Gross girls, 12 and 10 respectively, were in a youth lacrosse camp coached by McVeigh and Ryan Polley, the first head coach of the Golden Warrior girls’ program.
Weezie was in the youngest division, intended for second-graders. When McVeigh received Weezie’s application, he called the girl’s mother, Chris, and asked for an explanation.
“I remember John called me and was like ‘um, she’s 5,’ ” remembers Chris Gross, who served as an assistant coach in the youth lacrosse program while her three daughters and her son, Buddy, went through. “I told him: ‘Just watch her play. She’ll be fine.’ ”
The rest is history.
Recognizing the talent of the Gross girls, Polley had no choice but to add Briana, then a freshman at Andover, to his varsity playoff roster in the spring of 2003.
When McVeigh took over as head coach in the spring of 2004, Andover girls lacrosse, in just its fourth year of existence, wasn’t quite the household name it is today. Through the help of Briana and classmate Rachel Fox — who went on to be a high school All-American as well before a tremendous career at Northwestern University — the Golden Warriors were a force to be reckoned with in the spring of 2005 when Cat joined the team.
For two years the Gross sisters tore up the league, but never reached their ultimate goal of a state title. Surrounded by powerhouse lacrosse programs like Lincoln-Sudbury, which knocked Andover out in what everyone thought was “the year” in 2007, the girls never won the North Sectional. Their mark was left at Andover, however, just like everywhere else the family would play.
When the girls picked up lacrosse at a young age, there were hardly enough kids interested to make two teams in the youth league. When they entered Andover High School, the team was a floundering new program. The elder Gross sisters signed up for Revolution Lacrosse Club to play in the offseason when it was just beginning; now, every Division 1 college coach in the country has heard of it.
Briana took her talents to Bates College and helped lead her team to the Division 3 NCAA Tournament, a monumental achievement for the school. Cat chose UConn and after a few mediocre seasons has the Huskies at 11-1 and on the verge of the Division 1 NCAA Tournament.
Now Weezie is taking over.
As a sophomore, Weezie helped lead the Golden Warriors to the North Sectional Title, further than her sisters ever made it, before they lost once again to Lincoln-Sudbury in the state tournament. After a recruiting visit in the fall, Weezie committed to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where a lacrosse program begins next spring. Weezie will be part of just the second varsity recruiting class to take the field for the Buffalos. But first, the high school junior has some unfinished business at home.
“Right now, we’re 1-3-1, but we’re a young team,” she said. “We lost a lot of seniors and some All-Americans [Ally Fazio , playing with Cat at UConn, and twins Kate and Anne Farnham, playing at UMass Amherst], but I know we can come together. As long as we play together, we’ll be fine.”
When asked who the best sister was, the three paused and looked at one another but couldn’t give an answer. The older two were confident with their resumes, but they know how much potential their younger sister has.
“She’s not the best . . . yet,” said Cat, smiling over at her sister. Briana agreed.
“I wish I were in her position and had the type of potential she does. But she had the training. We [Briana and Cat] used to take her out in the backyard and whip balls at her and tell her she needed to catch them,” laughed the elder sister. “She did. And now she’s here.”
McVeigh had nothing but confidence in Weezie.
“Weezie is the natural evolution of the Gross sisters,” said McVeigh. “When she got there she was playing at a level I’d never seen a freshman play. Her understanding, stick skills, making others better. . . . She just sees the field better than anyone I’ve ever coached. As the Gross girls got older and improved, so did our program and the game.”
With nearly two full seasons left in her high school career, the opportunity for Weezie to enter the upper echelon of Golden Warrior greats is a real one
But either way, the Gross girls, once again, have left their mark.