East Hampton girls lacrosse coach returns to lead young talent

Stability With Jessica Sanna




Sophomore midfielder Grace Perello returns to the team this season. Independent/Gordon M. Grant

Jessica Sanna is rejoining her old squad and some welcoming familiar faces.

The East Hampton lacrosse coach has once again taken the helm, and this time, is looking to develop a Bonackers program brimming with young talent.

Sanna had left two years ago to pursue a physical education position in another district, but when a teaching job at East Hampton’s John M. Marshall Elementary School opened, she found herself able to once again take the reins and develop her players.

That began over the winter when she took her Bonackers into the weight room and out to the turf to start practicing.

“Our girls are learning the aspects of the game, like how to run their plays on offense and defense, and fine-tuning things like their stick skills,” said Sanna, who headed the lacrosse program at Southampton for six seasons, runs a summer camp at Future Stars there, and coaches a girls travel team called East End Elite out of Westhampton. She said her Bonackers are “in great shape” and that said she’s excited to be back.

The Bonackers who include players from Pierson, Bridgehampton, and Ross, are also welcoming back Sophia Bitis, a Pierson senior looking to lead an attack she was unable to play with last year due to injury.

“She’s able to see the other girls to get the ball to them, she’s able to score — she has a really good left hand as well as a really good right hand,” the coach said.

Other key components include sophomore midfielders Grace Perello and Asha Hokanson, eighth-grader Emma Rascelles, and first-time East Hampton sophomore goalie Rorey Murphy.

Perello is a do-it-all player, according to her coach, working all ends of the field and taking the draws for the Bonackers.

“She works really, really hard,” Sanna said of her Pierson player. “She’s very versatile; very, very athletic.”

The coach said Perello is also able to see the field, and is unselfish, to the point where Sanna said she feels she needs to poke her a few times to take more initiative.

“She looks to pass before she shoots, almost to a point where I’m like, ‘C’mon. Shoot the ball,’” Sanna said with a laugh. “She’s not afraid to go after the ball though, and she just loves lacrosse.”

East Hampton’s Hokanson has been a go-to player for her coach, and comes with wheels.

“She’s really fast, and she’s really great at handling the ball and just executing our plays for us,” the coach said of Hokanson, who’s also on the soccer team. “She’s great on defense as well.”

Murphy comes from the Bonackers’ field hockey team, where she also defends the goal. Murphy can clear the ball well, is growing, and learning how to take her field hockey talents and transfer them to the world of lacrosse. In the first two games of the season, she’s come up with 19 saves.

“We’re really, really excited to have her,” Sanna said.

The coach is looking at her Bonackers’ youth as a good thing, pointing to some of the younger girls, like Rascelles, knowing their stuff. The Pierson player currently competed with a travel lacrosse team up-Island. Sanna is looking to see her anchor the defense, but she’ll also be putting in some time in the circle at midfield.

With a power-ranking system, the team will play surrounding competitors Port Jefferson, Hampton Bays, and Center Moriches, but the coach didn’t shy away from setting up some scrimmages outside of Division II. The Bonackers came up with a 20-1 win over Stony Brook March 19 before an 18-7 nonleague loss to Hauppauge and 18-8 loss to Longwood. The coach was happy her team managed to get on the board more than a handful of times against Division I teams.

“I’m very happy with the season so far,” she said. “I told the girls playing against better teams is going to make them better. It’s a big step in the right direction. They’re starting to execute the plays that I give them, are listening to the things I’m saying, and then turning around and putting it to use in a game. They’re playing real lacrosse now.”

East Hampton Athletic Director Joe Vasile-Cozzo said he’s thrilled to have Sanna back.

“She’s a terrific physical education teacher and I’m hoping this creates stability within the program,” he said. “If you want to kill a program, keep changing coaches. I think with her knowledge we can rebuild. She’s got a good handle on what needs to happen, her practices are always organized, she’s always upbeat, and while the task ahead is not going to be easy, I have confidence in her and the kids.”

Because there hasn’t been consistency in coaching in the last five years, now that Sanna is here, she’s hoping to start some stability within the program.

“I want to start with the youth program, and I’m already talking to coaches there to set up some clinics. I want to have the varsity girls get to know the youth girls and our junior varsity teams to teach them the things that they know,” she said. “I’m working on building this from the ground up.”

desiree@indyeastend.com