CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake Central Tigers Lacrosse Club president Buddy Metz sees a bright future ahead for the sport.
“We’re headed nowhere but up,” Metz said. “Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate tonight, we would have had a lot of people here.”
Instead, Mother Nature gave everyone nowhere to head but home Wednesday night, just as players from Central and Crystal Lake South were about to be introduced at South’s Ken Bruhn Field. Persistent lightning and thunder postponed the 7 p.m. start, then wiped out the game for Wednesday.
District 155 officials were discussing a reschedule date for the teams to play their first games on campus, a preview of what will happen next year when the D-155 schools, along with the rest of the Fox Valley Conference schools, become IHSA lacrosse programs.
Huntley and Marian Central made the move this year, the first the IHSA offered a state series. The D-155 school board voted in the fall to wait until the 2018-19 school year to move to IHSA lacrosse. District 300 schools Dundee-Crown, Hampshire and Jacobs, and District 156’s McHenry will join D-155 in IHSA competition.
Prairie Ridge will play at Cary-Grove at 7 p.m. Thursday in another D-155 introductory game. Metz said Central and South were looking to reschedule next week.
As an IHSA sport, the local lacrosse teams will likely play at least some of their home games on the high school campuses, which will generate bigger crowds and more interest.
“It’s definitely awesome to see how many people are curious about it or coming to support us as seniors,” said South senior goalie Tommy Atella, who plans on playing football and lacrosse at NCAA Division III Carroll College in Wisconsin next year. “(IHSA) is a big step in the right direction. It’s really exciting to see the next step for lacrosse in the area.”
South and Central are both 5-5. Both coaches, South’s Jeremy Bower and Central’s Leo Zimmerman, coach at their respective alma maters after playing club lacrosse there. Now, it will be a true high school sport.
“I’m glad with the big youth programs that kids are going to have somewhere to go in high school and get good quality coaching,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a sport that’s getting respect as a real varsity sport, because we have competitive athletes and big youth programs. There’s a lot of lacrosse players in D-155.”
When Bower played, Central and South combined as a team. Now, they have their own and will feel more a part of the school.
“To be here as a coach is huge,” Bower said. “The players have never been more fired up in their lives for an event, which says something about how big this is. The football guys get to go out and everything’s a big deal for them, which it should be. But these guys don’t get that as often, so when they get it, you just see it. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Tigers senior Casimer Plonczynski took up lacrosse when he attended Central’s Eighth Grade Night a few years ago. A friend at Central invited him to try this fast-paced sport that was growing in popularity and Plonczynski fell in love with it.
“I’m really excited about it because my little brother (Gavin) is a freshman,” Plonczynski said. “I wish I could be a part of that, but I’m happy for the younger kids who are coming to high school and they will have it as a sport. It’s so big in the U.S.”
According to Metz, the FVC also will have four girls teams next year. On a recent conference call with local schools, McHenry said it would have a team, D-155 plans to have a co-op team and D-300 will do the same. Huntley already has a girls team.
“At the youth level our numbers are up,” Metz said. “Everybody’s pretty excited about it.”