The path from no lacrosse to college lacrosse

Gumbiner, Spencer make leap to FLC

Siena Gumbiner and Alyssa Spencer had no lacrosse experience four years ago before joining the fledgling Durango High School team. Four years later, Fort Lewis College head coach Kelsey MacDonald, center, came calling for their services. Enlarge photo

Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald

Siena Gumbiner and Alyssa Spencer had no lacrosse experience four years ago before joining the fledgling Durango High School team. Four years later, Fort Lewis College head coach Kelsey MacDonald, center, came calling for their services.

Hit the rewind button back to four years ago.

Alyssa Spencer and Siena Gumbiner were both freshmen at Durango High School. Spencer barely even knew what lacrosse was, much less how to play it, while Gumbiner had a passing interest but nowhere to play.

Four years later, and here they were standing in the middle of Ray Dennison Memorial Field next to their college lacrosse coach.

Gumbiner and Spencer’s path to the Fort Lewis College women’s lacrosse team isn’t the typical story. You know the drill – kid starts out at a very young age picking up the sport and learning the fundamentals. Kid then becomes more and more dedicated, progressing through the junior varsity to the varsity squad in high school, maybe picking up some awards on the way.

The DHS duo’s tale takes a marked detour from the usual narrative.

“I didn’t even know what lacrosse was, let alone that I could play it at a higher level. I’m actually kind of excited,” said Spencer, the daughter of Rhoda Spencer.

As for Gumbiner, she had an interest in lacrosse in junior high, but not much in the way of girls teams to join. She tried to join boys teams, but standing maybe at 5-foot tall at best, the powers that be were worried about her health should she be allowed to play with her more testosterone-filled brethren.

“I tried to join the boys club team at the rec center once. That didn’t work out. ... I guess they were afraid I was going to get hurt,” Gumbiner said with a laugh.

Spencer hadn’t even planned on playing, even as DHS started a program her freshman year. But friend and future teammate Liz Lozano put a bit of a dare to Spencer – if I’m going to play, you’re going to play.

“This doesn’t sound fun at all actually. She told me that if she joined, I would have to join. ... So we played, and we actually kind of liked it,” Spencer said.

It couldn’t have been a better decision. Spencer led the Mountain League with a 3.966 goals-against average and was second with a .715 save percentage in net for the Demons, earning first-team all-conference honors. Gumbiner, a pocket-sized blur in the attack all year for DHS, scored 21 goals and earned second-team accolades.

The biggest bonus, however, was winning the school’s first Mountain League title and earning a playoff berth after four years of building the program alongside head coach Jenni Darlow.

“I remember this last year, senior year in high school, I was a team captain, and I remember some moments watching everybody ... I remember getting in complete moments of bliss, like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going so well!’” said Gumbiner, the daughter of Geoff and Jennifer Burbey.

The duo’s new coach, Kelsey MacDonald, was impressed not only with their numbers as seniors, but also their work ethic. She’s hoping that the same hard work allows her investment in the former Demons to pay huge dividends over the course of the next four seasons.

“I got to see both of them play their junior year, and just from their junior to their senior year, they just improved so much,” MacDonald said.

From no lacrosse to college lacrosse in four years. Not bad at all.

“I’m really psyched. Really, really, really psyched,” Gumbiner said.

rowens@durangoherald.com