Peninsula Lacrosse Takes Aim at State Title

Senior captains Robby Akulschin and Elliot Gilliam lead an experienced and consistent team this season.


For Robby Akulschin, the parallels between his stick skills on the field and in the air are uncanny.

Maintaining situational awareness. Navigating unexpected twists and turns. Mastering control and maneuverability. Making confident split-second decisions. Remaining calm under pressure.

And, in Akulschin’s case, a connection to the title “captain.”

“I’ve been with a stick in my hands my whole life,” said Akulschin, Peninsula High School Boys Lacrosse senior co-captain, who also is an aspiring airline pilot taking flying lessons at Tacoma Narrows Airport.

“Stick skills” takes on multiple meanings for the Akulschin family. Robby’s parents, Paul and Dani, helped start Peninsula Lacrosse years ago, and both of Robby’s older brothers played for the program. Paul and Robby’s uncle are both pilots, and Robby and his older brother are working on getting their pilot’s license. Akulschin said he continuously applies the multitasking aspects of what he learns on the ground to what he does in the air, and vice versa.

“On offense, you’re not just looking in front of you. You have to keep your eyes up and see what your defender is doing and what the defender behind him is doing,” Akulschin said. “In the air, you’re not just flying the plane: you’re checking the rudders, adjusting the engine speed, looking at your altitude. The similarities are so interesting.”

The 6-foot 2-inch Akulschin, a first-team All Puget-Pierce Conference attacker last season, and Peninsula Lacrosse are coming off a loss in the semifinals at last year’s state tournament. The team lost former captain Bo Clark and Brendan Kolbaba to graduation last June.

“We lost a lot of skills from last year’s team, but we have a much more consistent team, which will be better for us,” Akulschin said. “Sometimes with the new guys, we start off a little slow, but once we start connecting as a team it’s really something awesome.”

While Akulschin leads a rebuilt offense, “Over and over again, defense wins games,” said senior co-captain and defender Elliot Gillam.

Both Gillam and Akulschin expect big things from the defensive side this year. Gilliam will play alongside his brother Thomas, a midfielder, and is excited they have a pair of equally capable goalies in junior Tyler Givot and freshman Brett Farr.

“They are both so good and will just continue to get better,” Gillam said. Freshman Asher Epstein is a skilled defender who has good footwork, according to Akulschin, and Gillam singled out midfielder Phillip “Trey” de Maine as the player who “gives the most effort out of anyone on the team.”

“We’re a good unit together,” said Gillam, who was also named first-team All Puget-Pierce Conference last year. “But it’s easy to be a leader of a good group of guys.” Gillam plans to play club lacrosse at Boise State next year and major in mechanical engineering.

As for Akulschin, he plans to put his love of flying in front of his love of playing when he attends either San Jose State or Montana State to pursue his pilot’s license.

“I hope to always be a part of this sport, but I know what I want to do. As much as I love lacrosse, I will choose time in the cockpit over lacrosse any day,” he said.

Peninsula Lacrosse faces off with Bonney Lake Friday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Roy Anderson Field for their first home game of the season. Akulschin said they have lost the first game of the season for the past three years and he wants to end that streak. He scored four goals in the season-opening loss to Bonney Lake last year. They face Gig Harbor twice: once on March 22 at 7:30 p.m. and again at the annual Baggataway Bowl, lacrosse’s version of the Fish Bowl on Friday,. April 26 at 8 p.m.