Fresno State Women’s Lacrosse Program Has Made High School Lacrosse Within Fresno Unified A Priority As A “Feeder System” For University


fresnostatewomenslacrosse“This is a high priority for our district, a great opportunity for girl athletes,” he said. “We’re encouraged by the numbers. A lot of girls have come out for lacrosse who haven’t played another sport.”

“We’ve seen growth of feeder systems,” she said. “Most of our recruits are from outside the area, but as we’re getting players started at a younger age, we’ll have more recruits from this area.”

http://www.fresnobee.com/sports/hs/v-print/story/1167077.html

Doug Semmen, the district’s athletic director, said the idea was spawned from a talk he had with Fresno State associate athletic director Paul Ladwig.

Semmen said Ladwig urged him to coordinate the debut of high school lacrosse with Fresno State’s debut in the sport, a season that begins with an exhibition tournament Sunday at Cal.

Fresno Unified schools will begin play in March, using equipment and uniforms purchased by the district.

Semmen said the startup cost was about $60,000 — an investment, he said, in creating athletic opportunities for girls.

“This is a high priority for our district, a great opportunity for girl athletes,” he said. “We’re encouraged by the numbers. A lot of girls have come out for lacrosse who haven’t played another sport.”

Several high school teams participated in a clinic this past weekend, when they joined Bulldogs players — many of them first-timers in the sport themselves — in learning techniques from Fresno State coaches.

It’s a theme that has played out elsewhere in the West, with a college program starting lacrosse and local high schools following suit.

Oregon added lacrosse in 2005 and has recruited players mainly from the East Coast. But the sport took off in Oregon schools and coach Jen Larsen said attendance at her clinics has grown from a couple of dozen to a few hundred.

“We’ve seen growth of feeder systems,” she said. “Most of our recruits are from outside the area, but as we’re getting players started at a younger age, we’ll have more recruits from this area.”

So, too, eventually, will Fresno State. Someone such as Edison High sophomore Gao Nou Moua, who loves the game’s pace.

“You have to have endurance and stamina,” Moua said at the clinic. “And this game is more aggressive. I’m fast running, so I want to play attacker.”

Edison coach Lauren Jacquez has coached soccer and cross country but is learning lacrosse with her players. She said the Fresno State clinics are a great introduction to the game as well as a way to bond with the Bulldogs.

“My whole team is going to [Fresno State’s] first game on Feb. 7,” Jacquez said.

That enthusiasm is what Semmen hoped would be sparked. He set up a league schedule for all seven of the district’s high schools and provided equipment — including pink sticks — for 15 to 20 players on each team.

“[Fresno State coach Sue Behme] has been a big help; she’s a dynamo,” Semmen said. “We took teams to a clinic in December and you should have seen the girls’ faces. The [skills] improvement from beginning to end was amazing.”

Bullard coach Nicole Kopacz, who played on the club team at UC-Davis, is bullish on the sport’s future in Fresno.

“Lacrosse is being embraced by the district, and Superintendent [Michael] Hanson is a lacrosse lover,” she said. “I definitely think it’s going to last.”

But it isn’t likely to show up in any other nearby cities and counties just yet.

Clovis Unified representative Kelly Avants said the district has no plans to start a lacrosse program.

And CIF Central Section commissioner Jim Crichlow doesn’t see any others in the Valley lining up.

“No one else is asking how to get started in lacrosse,” he said. “They’re worrying about keeping the sports they have.”

 

 

High schools throughout the state are struggling just to save their sports programs, much less create new teams. So how is it that Fresno Unified decided now was the time to add, of all things, lacrosse?

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