Following a familiar path for local lacrosse players, Robby Walsh matriculated from Mater Dei School to Gonzaga before continuing his career at Lehigh University. Now 27, Walsh will lead a team in the area’s most powerful lacrosse conference.

After five seasons as defensive coordinator, Walsh takes over the program at St. Albans, replacing Malcolm Lester who led the Interstate Athletic Conference team for 21 years. Earlier this year, Lester announced he would step down from his post at the District private school after the spring to become the headmaster at Grace Episcopal Day School.

“I’m excited for the challenge,” said Walsh, who was named the area’s assistant coach of the year by U.S. Lacrosse in 2009. “I’m pulling stuff from all sorts of places I’ve been throughout my career to hopefully try to build something a little bit new. I think we can definitely challenge [the rest of the conference] a little bit.”

Lester, 45, came to St. Albans in 1992 as the Bulldogs third coach in three years. He became one of the area’s most respected lacrosse coaches for his work expanding the game in the District and was named the 2007 All-Met Coach of the Year after guiding the Bulldogs to their first IAC tournament title.

On May 22, Lester picked up his 250th career victory when the Bulldogs beat Williamsburg Lacrosse Club to close the season at 10-12. The veteran coach was also recently named “Man of the Year” by his peers in the local chapter of U.S. Lacrosse. He begins his new job at the private Kensington grade school on July 1.

“You go through your ups and downs, but it’s just so many memories,” Lester said. “The guys that I first coached are coming up on 40 [years old] now, and it’s special when they come back to St. Albans, to see them develop into fathers and husbands and professionals. Over the years, I’ve formed hundreds of relationships and made so many different connections, and it’s good I’m not moving away, so I can keep them going.”

With Lester’s support, Walsh interviewed for the position just before the team began playing this spring and found out he got the job with a few weeks left in the season. Walsh will teach math at the school next year and also serve as an assistant on the varsity football staff.

The Bulldogs graduate just two starters off this year’s squad, and Walsh said he’s already met with all the players in the program and their parents — from varsity down to sixth grade. Walsh, who played under both Landon Coach Rob Bordley and Georgetown Prep Coach Kevin Giblin at different times in his youth, will try to improve a team that has lost its last 15 games against IAC competition, dating back to 2010.

“The program’s in a good place,” Walsh said. “Malcolm’s an incredible person, and he’s made it easier on me with a strong foundation and the kind of young people he has here ready to go.”