CP lacrosse club rolling despite cold weather
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent March 26, 2013 10:44AM
Crown Point Lacrosse players (left to right) Michael Traina, Bryce Schwuchow and Joe Kelnhofer watch training drills at the Crown Point Sportsplex on Tuesday, March 19. The lacrosse club was founded in 2010 and practices at the city venue.
Updated: March 26, 2013 12:04PM
Crown Point Lacrosse Club founders didn’t have to look far to find eager student-athletes, supportive parents and an artificial turf playing field to grow the new program. The Bulldogs have, however, covered many miles each time they’ve visited their nearest competitors.
Into the late afternoon at the Crown Point Sportsplex on Tuesday, March 19, Bulldogs varsity and junior varsity squads worked on scoring exercises, participated in man-up and man-down drills and listened to coaches’ tips. The players seemed to brush off the 30-something degree temperatures and cutting wind.
“Keep moving” they said, and build on their young season’s 2-2 record.
“These kids are doing everything they can to get better,” said head coach Joe Laird, a former Ann Arbor resident who played on Eastern Michigan University’s lacrosse team. “They’ve had two decent years and now they’re just looking to make the next step.”
Founded in 2010 with 14 Crown Point-area youth filling out a team, CPL was born of a couple families’ desires to have the growing sport available to their kids. A move from Minnesota was agreeable to the Garrison family, but Nancy Garrison said her son Justin — now a Crown Point High School junior — felt something was missing.
Looking to avoid the long drives to LaPorte — where the only youth lacrosse club in Northwest Indiana was located — or beyond, Nancy joined a handful of other area residents who floated the idea of starting a team.
So Garrison took to the phone and the Internet to connect with sporting mentors such as the LaPorte club’s officers. She plunged into paper work and other business “up to (her) eyes” and helped to make that dream a reality.
“The number have exploded,” Nancy said of the Bulldogs’ expansion. “Our club is mirroring what the (national) statistics show.”
Registering 34 players by the start on the 2013 campaign, the varsity squad was split to yield a JV team. And three-dozen younger athletes now participate in the organization’s developmental clubs. Seen by many participants as an amalgamation of sports such as hockey, basketball and football, lacrosse has its own unique appeal.
“I joined because I thought it was a really interesting sport, something to get into, a small thing not too many people knew about,” said freshman Danny Wegman, an attacker on the JV team. “My brother junior Matt Wegman heard about it because a bunch of his friends played.”
Lacrosse is a contact sport played with a rubber ball and long-handled sticks topped with mesh scoops. Players collect and pass the ball with the object being to toss it into their opponent’s goal and score. Upper-body padding is required.
Though it is often defined in comparison to today’s most popular sports, lacrosse is said to pre-date all of them. In 1637, French Jesuit missionary Jean de Brébeuf recorded Iroquois Indians playing a type of ball game across vast fields. Game name theories suggest he compared the natives’ playing sticks to a crosier, or the staff a bishop carries.
CPL’s own history is brief, yet shows upward progression. The team started off with a 5-5 record in 2011, and then went 12-9 (including tournaments) last year.
On March 13, the Bulldogs opened their season at the Sportsplex hosting St. Rita of Chicago. CPL coaches said the game was played evenly throughout. St. Rita’s attackers got the decisive goal with just seconds remaining on the clock, taking away a 6-5 victory.
Covering the longest stretch the state has to offer, the Bulldogs packed their bus and headed to Evansville’s Goebel Soccer Complex for a series of games last weekend. CP notched two wins in a row, defeating Castle 10-6, and Evansville North 12-4.
With temperatures in the 30s and a steady rain drenching players, the Bulldogs dropped a game 4-6 to Harrison and left Evansville with 2-2 record on the season. Three games into their schedule, the JV squad earned their first win, a 7-3 victory over Harrison.
“We have to be out here to get better,” said senior midfielder Nick Valentino, with teammates Jake Ladendorf and Tyler Welker huddled around him. “It’s cold. Sunday we played games in freezing rain … to get better is the goal we’re trying to accomplish this season.”
CPL assistant coach Tim Bucci praised his team’s consistent play and remarkable maturation since their inaugural season. On the field to evaluate the offense, he encouraged the boys to shoot on the goal with more speed.
Players, coaches and parents hope CPHS officials will eventually lend some support to their cause. They’re not asking for money — CPL players already sell locally branded discount cards to raise funds — but they’d like some recognition for their alternative sport.
As far as fixing another concern they have — the lack of local competitors — the solution seems to be about education.
Laird’s and Garrison’s “ultimate goal” is to help get other teams started through sharing insight about that very process. And the Indiana High School Lacrosse Association looks to grow their ranks that presently fall far short of the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s threshold of sanctioning a sport when half of the state’s high schools offer it.
She estimated that lacrosse is played at about 10 percent of Indiana’s high schools.