Lacrosse is a guiding force for the Howe family of Laconia

  • Boston University sophomore Mackenzie Howe (center) is introduced before a game against Harvard in April. Boston University Athletics

  • Boston University and former Laconia High School standout Mackenzie Howe (left) battles for draw control during a contest against the University of New Hampshire in April. Courtesy / Boston University athletics

  • Laconia’s Rebecca Howe carries the ball up the field for the Sachems during a Division III game this season. Howe notched her 200th career goal earlier this year and will attend Division I St. Bonaventure University in the fall. Courtesy

  • The Plymouth State University women’s lacrosse team, including head coach Sandy Bridgeman (back row, far right) and assistant Kerri Howe (back row, second from right) pose after winning the LEC championship on May 5. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Even when they were learning the basics of lacrosse, Mackenzie and Rebecca Howe rarely talked about anything else. Such is life when you’ve been coached by your parents in a household where the sport means so much more than wins and losses.

“Our parents were really hard on us in practice and for most people it would end there,” said Mackenzie, a former Laconia High School standout who led the Sachems to a pair of Division III championships. “For us, we’d be sitting at the dinner table still talking about practice or before we went to bed or we would be sitting in the living room talking about it.”

For the Howe family, lacrosse is more of a way of life than just a game.

Mackenzie, who finished her career with Laconia as one of the most decorated players in school history, is currently a sophomore on the Boston University women’s lacrosse team. Her sister, Rebecca, just recently notched her 200th career goal for the Sachems and is committed to St. Bonaventure University next fall. And their mother, Kerri Howe, now serves as an assistant coach for the Plymouth State University women’s lacrosse team.

“If I look back on it, I never would have thought that me and Mackenzie would be going to play in college and that my mom would be coaching in college,” Rebecca said. “So I think it’s really cool to look at our whole family and see how we’re so involved in it.”

That wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until Mackenzie was in third grade when Tony Pederzani, a member of the board of directors for the Laconia Lacrosse Club, brought back the youth league and suggested she try her hand at lacrosse.

“It’s amazing because other than my husband (Bob Howe), who played box lacrosse up in Canada, it was relatively new to us as a family,” Kerri said. “I remember when Mackenzie was in third grade, she jumped into a youth lacrosse league and we all just fell in love with it.”

Rebecca followed in the footsteps of her older sister, and even though they didn’t know it at the time, the core group of girls who made up that youth team would eventually change the culture of Lakes Region lacrosse.

“When (Pederzani) started up that youth league again, it got a bunch of girls interested in the program, and that’s when Mackenzie jumped in and players like Sidney Swormstedt jumped in. That youth program started growing, and Bob and I jumped in and started coaching,” Kerri said. “Once we started coaching, we were getting fortunate because both of our girls played and had a bunch of friends that all came, too. It became a really good youth program, and a lot of those kids are playing college right now.”

One of those players being Mackenzie, who just wrapped up her sophomore season at Boston University, where she was named to the Patriot League Women’s Lacrosse All-Tournament Team despite being limited by a nagging back injury.

As the go-to scorer for Laconia, Mackenzie helped the Sachems hoist state titles in 2015 and 2016. She committed to BU as a sophomore and had an immediate impact as a freshman for the Terriers, playing in 15 of 17 games with 10 goals, one assist, 11 ground balls and 47 draw controls.

This past spring didn’t go as planned, as the injury led Mackenzie – a dynamic midfielder – to primarily be used as a face-off, run-off player who nabbed another 47 draw controls.

“We kind of decided that it would be best for me to just do the draw because I’m only a sophomore. I don’t want to ruin my entire college career by trying to push it,” Mackenzie said. “We just figured it would be better to just do draws, take it easy this year and be able to fully play for the next two years.”

Rebecca, meanwhile, is putting the finishing touches on her high school career and hopes to go out with a bang. The senior played alongside her sister when the Sachems won it all in back-to-back years, and she compiled 160 goals through her first three seasons before notching lucky No. 200 against St. Thomas Aquinas on May 10.

“It meant a lot because nobody else had gotten that far and I never really thought I’d be able to do it,” Rebecca said. “My whole team was really supportive, they stopped the game for me, everyone gave me posters and stuff so that was really nice. It was a cool accomplishment for me.”

While thoughts of what awaits Rebecca at St. Bonaventure next fall are surely racing through her head, she’s focused on bringing some more hardware back to Laconia.

“I think we’re definitely one of the top four contenders to win it,” said Rebecca of the Sachems, who finished the regular season 11-3, good for the No. 4 seed in the Division III tournament. “I think we have the potential to beat any of them so if we really step up our game and keep practicing the way we have been, I think we have a good chance at winning it this year again.”

Over at Plymouth State, Kerri is learning the nuances of coaching the college game under one of the best around in Sandy Bridgeman. The Panthers won the Little East Conference this past season with a 14-4 record before bowing out in the opening round of the Division III NCAA Tournament.

While getting pulled away from Laconia was an adjustment, Kerri said she and Bridgeman have developed a good relationship and she hopes to continue to coach in the college ranks.

“I so loved coaching at the college level. It was really amazing, very eye-opening and an incredible learning experience,” Kerri said. “Sandy and I just kind of really love coaching together. I love learning from her, and it worked out really well.”

It’s worked out pretty well for the entire Howe family, too, who’ve used a growing game to build a bright future.

“For my family, we really just kind of fell in love with the sport,” Kerri said. “We were watching the NCAA Tournament all weekend. We just love it. So I’m glad the girls were able to turn something they really like into helping them get into school and get scholarship money.”

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, jmcaree@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)