St. John s players Jake Moritz, top, and John Sawicki sandwich Justin Fung of Chagrin Falls in a match. The Titans are off to a 6-1 start this season. Last year St. John s fi nished 14-3, losing in the state final of Division 1-B, the second-highest level of competition in Ohio.
Lacrosse may be America s oldest sport, but it is still just cutting its teeth on the high school level in northwest Ohio.
Two longtime coaches and enthusiastic advocates of their sport St. John s Jesuit s Jim Reed and St. Ursula Academy s Paul Sieben are pleased with the progress of their teams, as well as the growth of lacrosse in this area.
Each realizes, however, there is still a ways to go.
To become recognized by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, a minimum of 150 school-sponsored teams are required for both boys and girls.
Three current sports boys ice hockey (80 teams), girls field hockey (33) and girls gymnastics (94) have far fewer teams than the OHSAA minimum, but OHSAA information director Bob Goldring said their inclusion as recognized sports was grandfathered in after the minimum was established for new sports.
St. John s goalie Mike Henson makes a stop against Chagrin Falls.
We ll just have to live with that and keep building, Reed said of the OHSAA minimum. Personally, I think if the OHSAA had any idea how much money we make on our tournament they d probably want to sponsor us tomorrow.
Whether or not his team continues as part of the Ohio High School Lacrosse Association or reaches OHSAA sanctioning, Reed s Titans have made huge gains as a program.
Last season St. John s improved to 14-3 after a 2-11 mark in 2003, and advanced to the state Division 1-B championship before losing to Cincinnati Sycamore 9-6. The Titans are off to a 6-1 start this year.
Bolstered by senior attacker Larry Black s career-high eight goals, the Titans rallied from a 6-4 halftime deficit on Saturday to take a 14-8 win over Chagrin Falls. St. John s capped the weekend with a 13-5 win on Sunday over Chicago St. Charles in a game played at the University of Notre Dame.
Black currently leads the state in goals scored with 26. Junior teammates Matt Kennedy (17 goals) and Brian Masterson (16) also rank among Ohio s top 10.
St. Ursula s Molly Teufel tries to get the ball during a contest against Sylvania in the Toledo Cup held at Bowling Green State University s Perry Field House.
I played hockey [for St. John s], and lacrosse is the same kind of sport, said Black. It involves a lot of running, agility, physical play and finesse, all at the same time. By far it s one of the greatest games ever made.
I like the combination of the physical play and the finesse, the nice shots, the beautiful moves and the big hits. There s not many sports where you can get all that in one.
You just have to be an all-around athlete. You have to have good balance, quick feet, good acceleration, and you have to be able to take a hit.
Division 1-B, which this season includes 33 varsity squads, is the second-highest level in Ohio. The 16 1-A teams, considered the elite, are all from the Cleveland, Columbus or Cincinnati areas.
There are also nine boys teams in Division 2-A, and 16 teams in Division 3-A.
Locally, there are four boys teams, St. John s, St. Francis de Sales, Perrysburg and Sylvania, the latter being a combination of players from Northview and Southview. St. Francis and Perrysburg are first-year programs.
St. Ursula coach Paul Sieben talks to his team. The Arrows defeated Sylvania 9-4 in the Toledo Cup. There are 33 players in the St. Ursula program.
St. John s has the deepest local program, with 27 varsity, 31 junior varsity and 12 freshman-team players.
On the girls side, St. Ursula like St. John s, St. Francis and Perrysburg has gained full varsity recognition this year for the first time, and will award letters to its eligible players.
St. Ursula, with 33 players in its program, is arguably the best of the Toledo area s five girls squads. Joining SUA are Ottawa Hills, which previously combined with the Arrows, plus Notre Dame, Maumee Valley and Sylvania, which like the boys program, includes players from Northview and Southview.
Over the weekend, St. Ursula and Sylvania joined Kent (Ohio) and Culver (Ind.) Military Academy in the four-team Toledo Cup tournament played at the Perry Field House at Bowling Green State University.
Top local girls players include SUA s Molly Teufel, Kristen Decker, Abby Jackson and goalie Quinn O Loughlin, Ottawa Hills Megan Nims and Darcy Phillips, and Notre Dame s Bridget West.
Sieben and Reed say the next big steps will be establishing a few more high school teams, and organizing one or two more youth programs to serve as feeder systems. Sylvania has the lone current youth lacrosse program.
It just looked like fun, said Amy Komisarek, a Southview senior. I saw a game on TV and I wanted to play it. It s a good way to stay in condition for other things.
Although rules of the girls lacrosse game permit only incidental physical contact, unlike the boys version, Komisarek is well-equipped for the rigors of the game. She was the only female player on the Southview ice hockey team.
We ve got a lot more players involved, and there s a lot better skill level, Komisarek said. My freshman year there were only two people from Southview [on Sylvania roster]. Now almost half the team is from Southview.
The fast pace and the contact are what drew St. John s senior Matt Pigott to lacrosse.
You need a lot of agility, a lot of speed and quickness, and good stick-handling skills, Pigott said. I guess it s more like hockey than anything else. It s just on a grass field instead of on ice.
Contact Steve Junga at:email@example.com 419-724-6461.