(Reprint of March 19, 2008 article)
Fullerton, CA (UWIRE) — The fastest growing team sport in the nation has come to Cal State Fullerton and nobody knows about it.
The US Lacrosse web site says the sport is an increasingly popular game at the youth, high school and collegiate levels. Once known as a regional sport on the East Coast, lacrosse has gained national appeal, recently emerging on the West Coast.
Numerous high schools in Orange County have recognized the sport’s potential and have created dozens of programs in high schools around the area. This has proved beneficial to local collegiate programs like CSUF, who can now recruit from this large pool of talented players.
Lacrosse is a sport that integrates various facets of basketball, soccer and hockey. It incorporates hockey’s physicality as it requires a helmet, pads and a lacrosse stick. In lacrosse, players cut, fake and spin across the field, using the agility and speed necessary in basketball.
“A lot of people can play, it’s exciting [and] it’s fun,” CSUF Assistant Coach Frank Podsidlilic said. “There’s a lot of individuality to it and you can work in a team framework.”
Podsidlilic calls lacrosse “a thinking man’s game,” where the biggest and strongest are not necessarily the best players on the field.
“You’re doing a lot of things at once,” Podsidlilic said. “You’re not focused on just the six inches in front of your face. You have to be able to lunge and pass and catch all at the same time while someone is trying to hit you.”
CSUF lacrosse began three years ago as a club team. Recently the team has risen its status from club team to competitors in the Division II Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA). CSUF plays in the MCLA’s Western Collegiate Lacrosse South division, competing against Biola, Occidental College, UCI and UNLV.
While the sport has maintained popularity amongst East Coast colleges, it has only recently sprung up in the Midwest and West Coast schools. Because of this, NCAA sanctioned lacrosse teams are a rare find. CSUF hopes to change this by becoming one of the first Division I NCAA-recognized teams on the West Coast.
It recently brought in eight experienced freshmen and have acquired the coaching skills of a highly decorated lacrosse player in Ryland Huyghue, who brings decades of experience to a young team hoping to reach the next level.
As a club player, Huyghue won four state championships and was given all-star recognition 17 years in a row. Huyghue has also been a member of the USA World Team and competed in the 1984 Olympics. When first coming to the team, Huyghue balked at the team’s lack of fundamental skills. Since his first practice, Huyghe has seen a “huge, huge improvement.”
“There is progress being made,” Hughue said. “I tell these guys every day you have to get better. Every day you come out here your goal is to get better than you were the day before.”
With 47 years of experience, Hughue said he believes the team has a high-ceiling. Huyghue hopes to be in Dallas come May, where the league national championships are held. This is the first year in CSUF’s young lacrosse history the team can actually compete for the playoffs. As a probation team, CSUF finished with a 2-7 record, but the team has already more than doubled its win total and is currently 5-3. In its first road trip to Northern California, CSUF swept its competition, defeating Pacific and San Jose State.
The 27-man roster is led by captains Jimmy Lin, Warren Lee and Ricardo Martinez. For junior midfielder Lin, this is his first year playing the sport. Lin started his college athletic career as a water polo player, but has since moved over to lacrosse. He found the sport easy to learn as it was so similar to other sports he’s played. He calls the sport “fast, physical and high scoring.”
With key recruiting and a strong work ethic, the Titans have the opportunity to emerge as one of the top-tier teams on the West Coast.
“The goal here is to get the school to recognize this is a viable program and we’re serious about what we’re doing,” Huyghue said. “My goal is to get these guys NCAA-sanctioned and become a Division I school.”
(C) 2008 Daily Titan via UWIRE