As the Vineyard girls’ lacrosse team looks ahead to the state tournament, coach Betsy Dripps is also looking back and reflecting on two decades of coaching the program she founded in the 1990s. Coach Dripps will retire after 20 years at the helm of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School girls’ lacrosse team, and a coaching career spanning 32 years. On Monday, the Vineyarders, seeded 10th, will hop on a ferry and face off against seventh-seeded Falmouth Academy in the first round of the state tournament. Every game now could be the last of the season for the team, and the last game ever for Coach Dripps.

When Coach Dripps founded the Vineyard’s lacrosse program, only a few other schools in the state played the sport. It began as an intramural team for girls with about 30 kids.

“I had two restaurants that each gave me the money to buy one goal and I bought some balls and we went from there,” she said. The boys' lacrosse program was founded the following year. Both have evolved into successful programs with high rates of participation.

“It’s huge now. It’s all over and it’s big on the college level. It’s the fastest game on two feet and it’s a very exciting, very high scoring game,” Coach Dripps said. Back in 1995 there were about a dozen teams competing. Now there are 150.

Coach Dripps first taught lacrosse, as well as squash and field hockey, at the Shipley School in Philadelphia, which she attended. She coached there for 12 years, and played competitive club lacrosse while living in Philadelphia. “After I had three kids I was playing with all these really young players and it was really fun. I played well into my 40s,” she said.

Twenty years ago natural boundaries such as wire fences defined the field. “My sweatshirts used to say ‘Martha’s Vineyard girls' lacrosse - no boundaries’ because there were no lines. Now it’s like the boys’ games. We have sidelines and boundaries behind the goal.”

Goggles and mouth guards are now mandatory, too. “My own teammate actually broke my tooth in half going back for a shot when I was playing,” she said.

Despite minor technical changes to the game, Coach Dripps’ approach to the game and her players has remained the same.

“I always look at what my kids have on their plate and don’t think of them just as lacrosse players,” she said. Her ‘kids’ are singers, dancers, tri-sport athletes and more. “They are all very good in the classroom and do volunteer work. They juggle a lot of things so I always try to respect that.”

Case in point: this year’s team is led by senior tri-captains Olivia Ogden, Emily deBettencourt and Aubrey Ashmun, each of whom captain three varsity sports teams and will go on to play at the college level.

Coach Dripps’ connection to her student-athletes extends well beyond their four years on her team. She still remembers Emma Lovewell’s on-field elegance from more than 10 years ago.

“She could move her body around the goal like a dancer and score from anywhere.”

Recently Coach Dripps ran into another former player from her first team, whose daughter she now teaches at the Polly Hill arboretum. Coach Dripps coordinates science education for elementary school students at the arboretum.

“It’s been fun to keep track of the kids that were really special throughout the years and continue to run into them on the Vineyard. That’s the reward we get.”

Other career highlights have been regular team trips to England, and visits from the same lacrosse teams that host the Vineyarders overseas. “I took a team over to England last year and we played five matches abroad. I thought it was so neat to show the kids that the sport they love is played across the ocean too.”

Coach Dripps won’t be idle when she retires at the end of the season, though. She looks forward to practicing her golf game and defending her title at Farm Neck Golf Club, where she is the reigning club champion. And regardless of the outcome of the state tournament, Coach Dripps will retire with a peace of mind and sense of accomplishment.

“I have loved every minute of coaching.”