Local athletes go to great lengths to play lacrosse — one of the fastest growing sports in the nation for boys and girls.
Miguel Moroles, a Sequim High School junior, is pulling double duty this spring, running sprints in track weekday afternoons for SHS and going to lacrosse practice in the evening for the North Olympic Peninsula Mountaineers.
“It’s hard. I get really tired,” he said, “but I still have time to do homework, though.”
Why does Moroles and 19 other Sequim and Port Angeles boys play lacrosse?
Dave Farrington, Mountaineers’ high school coach, said the sport can be addicting. “(It’s) the action, the finesse. It’s just fun!” Farrington said.
Moroles said when he was invited to a lacrosse camp with friend Ryan Root, the team’s goalie, he didn’t like it at first.
“It’s hard to catch (the ball),” Moroles joked. “But it grew on me.”
Mountaineers’ newcomer Dusty West of Chimacum has been playing lacrosse since sixth grade but for just three weeks for the team since moving from Friday Harbor.
With limited options for teams, West said he must make a 70-mile roundtrip trek every weekday for practice.
The most experienced player on the team, West said the Mountaineers are a work in progress.
“They just need more time,” West said.
For those not in the know, lacrosse is a team game using sticks with pockets to carry a rubber ball that players use to score on an opponents’ goal. It is a contact sport that sees players don protective gear, passing the ball between each other while defenders try to capture or knock the ball away.
This year, the Mountaineers have three teams: a high school boys team (0-2 record), middle school boys team (2-1) and a high school girls team (1-3).
Both boys teams host games at Agnew Field this Saturday, April 12, starting at noon, with the high school teams facing Auburn Riverside — one of the best Division-I teams in the state — and the middle school squad hosting Tacoma.
The Mountaineers’ girls travel to Wenatchee to play two games, against Stadium JV and Gonzaga JV, both on the same day.
Farrington said a rule change made things much tougher for their squads this year.
Half of their schedule is split between Division I and II teams; The Mountaineers are a much smaller Division-II team.
Farrington said the matchup with Auburn Riverside will be tough, but said his team played well against Emerald Ridge-Puyallup in a 15-5 loss.
Moroles said it’s been rough playing Division-I teams, but that the team’s goal is to win all their Division-II games.
“It’s possible,” Moroles said. “Hopefully we’ll win three or four.”
Two wins, big success
The boys middle school team is on a tear after winning its first game ever on March 15 in a 10-1 win over Kitsap in Agnew. They followed it up with a second win on March 22 over Puyallup-White, 12-3.
Head coach Lee Biladeau said it was their first win in the team’s three years of existence.
“The kids have worked hard,” he said. “Lacrosse is a hard sport to grasp in two years. It’s our first year of retention with some three year players and a few two year players.”
Adam DeFilippo, a Sequim eighth-grader, said this is his third year and that he learned the game’s basics from his sister’s friend who was on the high school team.
“He brought over a lacrosse stick and we tossed a ball around in the front yard,” DeFilippo said. “He taught me how to hit and box out and then I became a defender.”
DeFilippo and a several other eighth-graders move up next year, which organizers say will balloon the high school team so big that they likely will form a junior varsity squad.
First year freshman
This spring marks the first season for the high school girls squad.
Nine eighth-graders moved up to high school leaving the middle school team without enough players to play this season.
But the high schoolers are an iron man squad, organizers said, with 11 players, one short of a full team and no substitutes.
They’ve won one game so far, topping North Kitsap JV 12-1. The Mountaineers finish their season on April 30 at Greywolf Elementary against that same NK junior varsity squad.
Building a program
Sharon Prosser, president of the Mountaineers board, said team officials are continuing to find ways to recruit new players, whether its through efforts by girls head coach Erik Mordecai-Smith, a school resource officer in Port Angeles High School, or other area coaches like Erik Wiker, Sequim High football coach, who allowed the Mountaineers to setup at the football team’s banquet.
Prosser said recruiting mostly comes from word of mouth from players though.
While the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association doesn’t recognize lacrosse as a middle/high school sport, Mountaineers program coordinator Karl Wood said team officials and others continue to try and convince people of its legitimacy locally.
Wood said they’ve spoken with several other sports’ coaches and athletic directors about why lacrosse needs to be here.
“It presents a good alternative, but some people have a concern we’re competing for the same athletes,” Wood said. “For example, I have a son with ADHD and if he was running track, he’d be sitting around two-thirds of the time at a track meet. I don’t think a coach would want that. So having more options is a benefit to the high schools.”
An integral part for the Mountaineers to grow, Wood said, is developing fifth- and sixth-grade teams for boys and girls.
The Mountaineers’ practice in February and their seasons typically go through mid-May. Sometimes the teams participate in camps and special games in the summer.
For more information on the Mountaineers, visit http://mountaineerslax.org/.