In The Crease: America's Oldest Team Sport Is Its Fastest Growing Team Sport

In his regular Saturday column, lacrosse analyst Dan Fleuette discusses and comments on the latest news from the world of lacrosse. Be sure to check this space every Saturday at Breitbart Sports for incisive analysis and news of all things lacrosse. 

Lacrosse Participation Continues Explosive Growth

Lacrosse continues to grow faster than any other sport in America. Driving this growth is the increased participation of younger players across the country. More and more high schools across the country are adding the sport to their programs, such as Santa Monica High School. 

According to the latest USLacrosse annual Participation Survey, “A record total of 746,859 players competed on organized lacrosse teams in 2013. The growth rate from last year (722,205) was 3.4 percent and youth participation topped 400,000 for the first time ever.”

In addition to being the fastest growth sport in high school, the NCAA is showing similar trends, “A staggering 60 new varsity programs were added in 2013, including eight new NCAA Division I programs.” 

The expansion of youth participation will likely continue to fuel the growth at college, club, and even professional teams, as younger players matriculate and look for competition past the high school level.

 The northeast corridor remains the biggest driver of total participation, but states such as Utah, South Carolina, Minnesota, and Texas, which have never been mistaken for hotbeds of lacrosse, now boast robust and growing programs.

The University of Michigan, which began a lacrosse program in 2012, is indicative of how colleges are viewing the sport. Says Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon, “The more we dug into it, the more we believed that this is just a sport of the future. Lacrosse’s trend lines in every way we could measure were impressive and made us believe that this is a place where we could grow and be a part of something that would over time be very big.”

The game is also growing internationally, which organizers hope will translate into lacrosse becoming an Olympic sport, as early as 2024 or 2028.

In Case You Missed It

In 2012, Jake Seau, a sophomore at The Bishop’s School in San Diego, committed to play lacrosse at Duke University.

Seau, son of former San Diego Charger and New England Patriot Junior Seau, grew up playing football before getting “burned out” and recently decided to focus singularly on lacrosse.

Seau says, “In other sports, you can get away with size and speed, but not so much in lacrosse. It’s a different dynamic than anything I’ve played. The challenge is what hooked me, though, because I was so terrible at it. I hated it, so I became hellbent and obsessed at becoming the best player on the field and wouldn’t stop.”

That ethic has produced great results for the middie, who is ranked #44 in the nation. Seau, who will need to move across the country to play at Duke, should find the transition helped by some familiar faces that he’ll likely play against in college.

Former Bishop’s teammates Edwin Glazener and Christian Guinchard are both playing NCAA Division I lacrosse at Notre Dame and Dartmouth.

Tewaaraton Award Watch List Expands           

The Tewaaraton Foundation announced on Thursday the second round of additions to the men’s and women’s Tewaaraton Watch List.

The Tewaaraton Award annually honors the top male and female college lacrosse player in the nation. The next phase of the award selection will be on April 28, when the list will be winnowed down to the top 25 players in both the men’s and women’s categories. There is still an opportunity for standout players to be added in this list before it is trimmed to the 25.

The list was originally released on February 27. On March 20 the first additions were announced. On May 29, the Tewaaraton Foundation will have its annual Ceremony to announce and present the award to the athletes.

The Tewaaraton Award is widely recognized as the Heisman Trophy for lacrosse.

DI Trends

As lacrosse season heats up and the schedule winds into the last few weeks before conference tournaments commence leading up to the NCAA tournament on May 7, we take a look at some Division I standings.

#1 Loyola – Patriot League – Season record 10-1

Since doubling up Duke 14-7 in early March, Loyola has gone undefeated and sits at 10-1 overall. However, except for a 21-4 blowout win over Lafayette on March 22, Loyola has won their other four games by a total of 5 points against inferior teams that a team with a #1 rank should be winning handily. Their stout defense is ranked first in goals against at 5.5 again, and goalie Jack Runkel has a 60% save average.

Next up: Boston University 

#2 Duke – ACC – Season record 10-2

Duke’s season has been a series of streaks. They began the year 4-0 before going on a two game slide, including a loss against Loyola. Since then, they’ve gone on to win 6 in a row. They have strong wins against quality teams, including North Carolina, Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Denver. Their only other loss was a 10-6 defeat to Maryland on March 1. Duke is 3-1 in the powerful ACC. Players to watch are Jordan Wolf, who is at #3 in goals nationally with 37, and Brandon Fowler, the stellar FOGO (face off – get off) middie. Duke downed Virginia on Friday night, 17-15.

Next up: Rutgers

#3 Maryland – ACC – Season record 9-1

Maryland sat in the #1 spot for 3 weeks following their big win against Duke on March 1. Their only loss on the year came against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. They have quality wins against Virginia, Duke, and Syracuse. They have relied on one of the game’s best goalies in Niko Amato (59% save average), a tough defense, and strong middie play of Mike Chanenchuck to get to 9-1.

Next up: Hopkins

#4 North Carolina – ACC – Season record 9-2

The Tar Heels represent the third ACC team ranked in the top five. Their quality wins came against Maryland, Hopkins, and Virginia. They lost to conference foes Notre Dame and Duke, which could make the tournament bid unsecure. However, a win against Syracuse this weekend means they will definitely get a bid, so this week’s game is significant. The Heels boast a four game win streak since their loss to Duke.

Next up: Syracuse

#5 Denver – Big East – Season record 9-2

After a strong showing in last year’s tournament, expectations were high this year in the Mile High City. Denver has not disappointed at 9-2 on the season, but their only real quality win is against Notre Dame in early March, against two losses to quality teams, Penn and Duke. Denver rides a six game win streak, which started with their 10-7 win over Notre Dame.

Next up St. John’s

#6 Cornell – Ivy League – Season record 9-2

Cornell was the last undefeated team in NCAA Division I until it ran in to a strong Harvard team for its first loss of the season. Unfortunately for Cornell, they followed it up with another loss against Syracuse. They have quality wins against Penn, Virginia, and Yale, but have picked the wrong time of the year to start losing. After graduating last year’s Tewaaraton Award winner Rob Pannell, Cornell has relied on Connor Buczek and Dan Lintner for goals (Lintner is #4 in the nation with 36 goals at 3.3 per game.) Cornell as a team also ranks #4 as a team in goals at 13.8 per game.

Next up Hofstra

#7 Syracuse – ACC – Season record 7-3

Syracuse strikes as an enigma this year. They’re capable of beating anybody, but equally capable of being beat by anybody. Their woeful troubles at faceoff continue, and the Orange are experimenting with different lineups which could be dangerous if they do not gel. Or not. Their game Saturday against North Carolina looms large, with the outcome of the game likely determining what happens for both teams come the tournament. One of them may be sitting it out.  Syracuse has quality wins against Albany, Hopkins, Notre Dame, and Cornell with key losses coming against Maryland, Virginia, and a 21-7 drubbing at the hands of Duke.

Next up North Carolina

#8 Johns Hopkins – Independent – Season record 6-3

Hopkins just snapped a three game slide, after being undefeated to start the season, against Albany. Their quality wins are against Albany and Princeton, but against top-10 opponents, they are 0-3. They have a huge rivalry game this weekend against Maryland. A win against the Terps would go a long way in setting Hopkins up for the tournament.

Next up Maryland

#9 Notre Dame – ACC – Season record 5-4

Interestingly Notre Dame has a better road record (4-1) than at home (1-2). Their top wins are against North Carolina and Virginia, both in March, against losses to Duke, Syracuse, and Denver.

Next up Robert Morris

#10 Virginia – ACC – Season record 8-4

Virginia is a high-scoring team, averaging almost 13 per game. But they give up 11. Mark Cockerton and James Pannell lead the team with 36 and 31 goals respectively, so they can light it up. Of their twelve games, nine times they’ve scored over 10 goals, and in the games they didn’t score ten, all losses, they’ve scored 9. Quality wins include Loyola, Hopkins, and Syracuse, and all their losses have been against top 10 teams – Cornell, Notre Dame, Maryland, and North Carolina. They fell to Duke on Friday night, 17-15.

Next up Bellarmine

Points, Goals and Assists

Albany’s Miles and Lyle Thompson own the top spots in Goals, Assists, and Total points. Lyle tops the total points and assists categories with 65 and 42 respectively. Miles is #1 in goals with 40 in total. The numbers may change by the end of the season, but its likely we’ll see the Thompson’s walk away with the top numbers across the board.

Game of the Week

There’s a lot at stake this weekend, particularly in ACC play as teams jockey for position heading in to the NCAA Tournament. See above.

Maryland @ Johns Hopkins. 2PM on ESPNU.

North Carolina @ Syracuse. 6PM on ESPNU.

Games on Tap

Complete list here.

For tips, tricks, press, email breitbartlax@gmail.com

Twitter: @breitbartlax

PHOTO: University of North Carolina


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