After founding the program in the fall of 2008, Zach Zielonko stepped down as head coach of the Valley Tigers lacrosse team this summer. Zielonko’s decision was rooted in a career change which necessitated a move to Colorado. In four seasons as head coach Zielonko guided the team to an overall record of 51-12. Under Zielonko’s watch, the Tigers consistently finished as one of the top four teams in the Nebraska High School Lacrosse League.*
Zielonko quickly joined by efforts with the fledgling Central Iowa Lacrosse Association. Together we plotted programs and leagues to guide the development of the sport in Des Moines, including this summer’s highly successful youth program. More than that, Zielonko played a key role in my personal development as a player. Needless to say, Zielonko made a significant impact in Central Iowa regarding lacrosse.
As the 2012 season wound down, assistant coach Tyler Nielsen announced that he too was stepping down, for similar reasons. Nielsen also played a major role in lacrosse’s development in Des Moines. He was the first to respond to my search for local players and he did not hesitate to teach me to play the game that I had watched and studied for so long. Upon meeting Zielonko, Nielsen readily offered to serve as an assistant coach.
Valley’s other varsity assistant, Austin Ladd, has also stepped down this fall to pursue a graduate degree. Ladd joined the team after graduating from the University of Iowa in 2010. With lacrosse experience stretching beyond his days at the Salisbury School, Ladd brought a fresh perspective and a defensive mindset to the team. Ladd has expressed interest in working with members of the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area to grow the game in Eastern Iowa.
The team will miss the presence of all three men on the sideline. But all things must go on. The groundwork laid by these three men serves as the foundation of the team’s future.
Last night marked our first fall ball practice and the beginning of a new era. So far things are off to a great start. I plan to build upon the legacy created by Zielonko, Nielsen, and Ladd. I am confident in my ability to pickup where they left off and lead the Tigers to victory.
There will more information about the returning players and coaching in the coming months leading up to the 2013 season. In the meantime, I want to acknowledge General Manager Dirk Arends and senior captain Sam Arends for their assistance with the transition. Our shared vision and leadership philosophy ensures that this team will stay on the right track.
*Per league bylaws, Valley competed as a JV team in its inaugural 2009 season. JV teams are not ranked.