One in an occasional series.
Two weekends ago, in the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) girls’ lacrosse final, Lewes Cape Henlopen (Del.) won its eighth consecutive state championship.
The 16-4 victory came on head coach P.J. Kesmodel’s 73rd birthday. And it represented his final game as varsity girls’ lacrosse coach at the school.
Kesmodel’s life in lacrosse began with a truncated career as a player, having been hurt at Johns Hopkins. But when he turned his efforts to coaching, he became somewhat of a specialist at startup programs. He served as a volunteer assistant coach with the boys’ lacrosse team at Severna Park (Md.) in 1964, when the program first began.
He continued coaching boys, winning a state championship with Ellicott City Mount Hebron (Md.) in 1983. Five years on, he pushed and prodded the school board and administration to add girls’ lacrosse.
His Mount Hebron girls’ team would eventually win four straight state championships from 1992 to 1995. He handed off the tradition to Chris Robinson and Brooke Kuhl-McClelland, and the Hebron teams would find a rich seam of form that would result in 11 straight state titles from 1997 to 2007, and a 103-game winning streak from 2001 to 2007.
Kesmodel thought he was going to retire a decade ago, moving to the Delaware shore area. He had gotten the coaching itch, however, receiving an offer to be the head coach at Berlin Worcester Prep (Md.). But his nearby high school, Cape Henlopen, needed a coach when Gretchen Haas-Wyshock stepped away due to pregnancy.
The Vikings had immediate success, making it to the state final and losing by one goal.
It’s been a remarkable run for the affable Kesmodel, who has founded club teams, a lacrosse scholarship program, stepped into the formidable shoes of the late Flo Bell at Catonsville Seton Keough (Md.), and even found success in the inner city Baltimore with City College, a magnet-school team.
He’s a true legend who will be missed.