After a long search, Durango High School found its next girls lacrosse coach in its own backyard.
The school announced Thursday that Natalie Mitchell, a former Fort Lewis College women’s lacrosse player, will lead the Demons moving forward.
“I’m really excited to meet the girls,” Mitchell said. “I had heard that Jeff (Einfalt), the coach from last year, did a great job building the program, and I’m really excited to keep building on what he’s already done. I want to have a fun season for the girls. Hopefully we’ll be successful and I can help develop their skills and get better.”
The Demons went 4-11 overall and 1-6 in the Mountain League in 2017 and are searching for their first .500 season since 2013.
DHS athletic director Adam Bright said Mitchell earned the head coaching position in the interview process.
“She came into the interview very well prepared and has a vision and a plan,” Bright said. “One of the things I ask all of our coaches is, ‘What’s the difference between a team and a program?’ And she understood that. She understood we want to build the program. We don’t just want a team for one year, we want a three- and a five-year plan to build the program. I think she has a passion for it and is someone the kids will be drawn to.”
Mitchell’s love of lacrosse will show through, and the former player said one of the biggest changes she’ll have to make in going from the field to the sidelines will be containing her enthusiasm.
“I think one of the biggest adjustments will be that I’m jealous of the girls because they’re actually playing,” she said. “I want to show them my passion for the game. I think being able to be a coach is such an awesome opportunity, and I want to show them how much I love the sport and what makes it an awesome game.”
Mitchell’s path to lacrosse was uncommon. Originally from Portland, Oregon, she played the sport in elementary school but gave it up and competed in basketball, softball and volleyball in high school. After a year of college and a lot of intramural sports, she walked on at Fort Lewis College, where she majored in exercise science, and was a three-year player on defense for the Skyhawks. Mitchell started 27 of 28 games in 2015 and 2016 and was an All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference honorable mention in 2016. She was eligible for another season at FLC but graduated in 2016 and forwent her final season of eligibility.
Mitchell’s diverse background in athletics was a factor in her hiring.
“She was a three-sport athlete in high school, so she gets what we’re trying to do and push for multi-sport athletes,” Bright said. “She showed up in college and got onto a team for a sport she didn’t play in high school. She didn’t play lacrosse in high school and was able to learn the game on the fly and learn the pieces of the game to be successful in college. I think that’s something our kids will be able to see and understand – if you put in the work, there will be results.”
The Demons will open the 2018 season on March 9 at the Santa Fe Prep tournament in Santa Fe, New Mexico.