McKenzie Coulson Dunham returns to Lakeridge as Pacers’ new girls lacrosse coach.
Tradition and stability.
McKenzie Coulson Dunham — recently hired as girls lacrosse coach at Lakeridge High School — hopes to bring both of those traits to her alma mater (she is a 2003 Lakeridge grad) beginning in the upcoming 2024 spring season.
Dunham, 38, succeeds Danielle Kirby as the Pacers’ head coach. Kirby served one season at Lakeridge’s helm, leading the Pacers to a 14-4 overall record and a second-place finish in the Three Rivers League, and later, a berth in the quarterfinals of the Oregon Girls Lacrosse Association state playoffs.
But Kirby is just the latest in a long line of Pacer head coaches who served just one season at Lakeridge. That’s a trend that Dunham is determined to end.
Prior to Kirby, Lauren Delancellotti served one year as head coach in 2021. She was preceded by Susan Bankowski who served one year as head coach in ’20. Before that, Sean Harrison served one year as head coach in ’19. And before that, it was Lindsay Kibler who served one year as head coach in ’18. And before that, Alex Byers who served as head coach in ’17.
“I know they’ve had a lot of coaches, a lot of turnover,” Dunham said. “I think that with all the coaching changes, they just haven’t had any consistency.”
That said, as the mother of a young family — Dunham gave birth to her daughter in 2020 and her son in March of this year — she wasn’t really looking for a return to the sidelines as head coach.
But circumstances intervened in Dunham’s life and changed her mind.
Her father Mike Coulson — he served for more than 15 years as Lakeridge’s athletic director and head football coach — died back on Jan. 9 of 2023 and Dunham decided she was ready to be a Pacer again.
“On a very personal note, I lost my dad this year in January,” she said. “Very unexpectedly. Very tragically. And my dad was a very important part of my life.
“I had no thought of getting back into it this soon, but I think what really pushed me over was the group of girls that I met with and then (my dad’s passing).”
Dunham brings with her a long coaching resume that most recently includes three years (2017-19) as head girls coach at Jesuit High School, and concurrently, as an assistant with the George Fox University women’s team. Her term at Jesuit included a 13-12 win over Lake Oswego in the 2019 state championship game.
Prior to that, Dunham served as head girls coach at Tigard from 2011-16.
Now, she’s ready to set her sights on lifting Lakeridge to the heights of Oregon high school girls lacrosse.
“Lakeridge, their support as an entire community for the sport is really strong,” Dunham said. “As much as I would love to see the game grow in some other less represented communities — I think that’s probably my future — right now, I just really needed … a program that already had a very established sense of identity. Having two young children, I really needed that parent group, I needed a supportive athletic director and all that.”
Looking ahead to 2024, Dunham’s Pacers have two all-league players slated to return (junior Avery French [also an all-state pick] and senior Chase Spiekerman) and their new coach says she’s looking forward to connecting with her team.
“I’m very much a player’s coach. I think anyone who’s played for me knows that,” Dunham said. “My pillars of philosophy are you have to work hard, you have to communicate and it has to be about more than just you.”