Irvine alumna: Spanish teacher and lacrosse coach

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Karen Briseño demonstrates how to take a shot from the crease for her players.

The first Irvine High School (IHS) girls lacrosse team started in 2008 and assistant girls lacrosse coach and Spanish teacher Karen Briseño was on it. 

Coach Briseño’s journey to becoming an assistant girls lacrosse coach has come full circle. Starting at IHS as a student athlete, Briseño’s senior basketball teammates expressed their sadness that their high school sports career was ending. Briseño vowed to join a spring sport so that she could avoid a post-sports slump. Luckily, IHS announced that same year that they were starting a lacrosse team. 

“I instantly fell in love with [lacrosse],” Briseño said. “It was very different from basketball but there were a lot of things that were similar [to basketball] that I clung onto. That helped the transition to lacrosse and made it a lot of fun.”

After graduating from IHS, Briseño continued to play lacrosse. She played for California State University Long Beach (CSULB) and California State University Fullerton (CSUF)’s lacrosse clubs while attending their universities. Throughout college, Briseño stayed connected to IHS by taking on the role of assistant lacrosse coach for the girls lacrosse teams.

“After lacrosse, my coach back at Irvine High mentioned that she was looking for an assistant,” Briseño said. “It was just her here at Irvine. She asked if I wanted to come back because she knew that I was going to stay local, so I started coaching.”

Karen Briseño gets low to the ground to scoop up ground ball.

Briseño coached the girls lacrosse teams while she attended CSULB and CSUF and continued to coach them after she graduated. She also became a student teacher at Irvine High after graduating from CSUF. Briseño left her position as a lacrosse coach when she received a teaching position at Corona Del Mar Middle and High School (CDMHS) but still continued to come to the girls’ practices when she could. After three years at CDMHS, Briseño heard word that a teaching position at IHS had opened up and seized the opportunity to come back. Since rejoining the girls lacrosse coaching staff, Briseño has made a difference in the girls lacrosse program with her caring attitude towards her players. 

“When [Briseño] is working with students she’s always making sure they’re not only learning but having fun as well,” head girls lacrosse coach Kaylah Ramirez said. “She not only cares about the program itself but the health and safety of our kids as well. If we ever have any kids that come in and they’re not feeling well, she makes sure to ask them, ‘What did you have for lunch? Have you been drinking enough water?’”

Briseño has also made a difference in how the girls lacrosse program is run. Briseño has taught her players new drills and has also introduced Saturday practices for students who had fall sports and were not able to come to the lacrosse preseason. 

“The girls lacrosse team has changed a lot,” junior and lacrosse player Cera Pascua said. “Coach Briseño has a lot of knowledge about lacrosse and she has connections to the Irvine lacrosse community. She helps with drills during practice and has introduced clinics for girls to attend.”

When Briseño rejoined the team, she made it her goal to help rebuild the girls lacrosse team and to make it more competitive. Briseño has already accomplished some of her goals. The work that she has put into the team has helped make the team more competitive, and the girls played well during their first game of the season against El Toro High School on Jan. 22. 

“[Our season has gone] good so far,” Briseño said. “We know what we need to work on and how we need to structure our practice. I constantly say it but now I think the girls understand that this is why we [practice]. We have a game [this] Friday so I’m excited to see what that brings.”

Briseño’s journey to becoming a lacrosse coach has spanned 14 years, starting from when she first learned lacrosse at IHS and ending with Briseño becoming an integral part of the girls lacrosse program. 

“If I process it and think about it, I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness,’” Briseño said. “It just makes it seem like this is where I was meant to be after being a student here—coaching here and then going away and then coming back. It’s been a lot of fun.”