PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The Northview girls' lacrosse team didn't think they would even have a season this spring, not because of COVID-19 but because they couldn't find a head coach.
"It was not on my radar; I just wanted the girls to have a season," said Andy Bouwens.
Players in the program saw the writing on the wall as well, as the season was just weeks away and they continued searching.
"I didn't think we were going to play, and they had rumors with us combining with another team," said senior Lizzie Hackett. "I said, 'Well, I'm not going to play.' If I'm not wearing the Northview name, I didn't want to play."
Many of the girls figured the program was heading into a co-op.
"I was worried," admitted Layne Bearss, a fellow senior. "I was like, 'Oh no, it's going to get shut down; it's not going to work.' It's a miracle, I think."
That's when Bouwens, a longtime Northview teacher and swim coach with over 30 years of experience, reached out to the athletics office, offering up his services.
"I didn't even tell my wife I was doing it to be honest," he laughed. "I was just putting out feeders and we'll see where it goes; I really wasn't sure."
After he was taken up on his offer by athletic director Pat Marsman, Bouwens admits he had to figure out the X's and O's of the sport, attending no more than a few games every season.
"When I found out he had never done anything with lacrosse, I was a little bit concerned," laughed Hackett.
Rather than the strategy of the game, Bouwens focused more on the team and culture, which translated extremely well for the 24 girls on the team.
"First day, from the first meeting he came and talked to all of us about things, and I was like, 'He has it set; he has passion,'" Bearss added.
And this past week, the Wildcats picked up their eighth win of the season, by far the most as a program and also the program's first-ever conference championship.
"I was a little emotional; it was a big deal for these girls," Bouwens smiled.
The coaches and players all were well aware of where the program has sat over the past few seasons.
"We've been a basement program for so long," admitted Bouwens, who has a daughter on the team. "The juniors and some of the seniors have experienced some of those big losses, like 20-2 and 19-2."
The players still can't get over the whirlwind that this season has brought.
"It was so awesome because in past years we have won maybe one game a season, and to repetitively win games and beat teams that we always lost to by so much was just amazing," Hackett smiled.
From not having a coach to a conference championship, it still hasn't set in.
"It's been a wild ride," Bearss said. "I feel like it hasn't even set in yet, when games just started up, it was like, 'Oh my gosh, we really just did that.'"
The Wildcats will begin postseason play on Monday at Caledonia, and Bouwens says he's hoping to stick around with the program for the foreseeable future.