The biggest improvement may be in the coaching. One reason soccer has stagnated in the U.S. is the dearth of quality coaches. Lacrosse is booming in part because of the quality of instruction.
Youth lacrosse in Colorado is booming. That has trickled up to high schools and college. The Colorado Youth Lacrosse Association has 7,000 boys participating. The Denver Lacrosse Club, part of the CYLA, boasts 750 in the spring alone. Rod Allison has introduced inner-city kids to lacrosse with Denver City Lax.
The lacrosse craze has put a Colorado twist on the national college lacrosse scene. A sport that used to be as East Coast as subways and crab cakes, lacrosse has found a major feeding ground in the Denver area. The University of Denver men’s team, ranked third nationally and only two years removed from its first Final Four berth, has nine in-state players. Air Force has 11. Thirty-three other Colorado prep products are playing among 22 other NCAA Division I men’s teams.
“You can get a kid from Colorado as good as the top kid anywhere,” said DU coach Bill Tierney.
Tierney is considered the Mike Krzyzewski of college lacrosse. He coached six national championship teams at Princeton, yet uprooted to one of only three Division I schools west of the Eastern time zone. He didn’t have a midlife crisis. He’s not much of a skier. But he knew he could build a winner at DU. “There was comfort in knowing there was a good recruiting base here,” he said.
In Tierney’s first year at Princeton, in 1988, he signed a Colorado prep player: Chris McHugh of Manual High School. Tierney then had Coloradans on every Princeton team through 2005.
Leading the Pioneers (9-2) into a showdown Saturday in Baltimore against fifth-ranked Loyola (9-2), the defending national champion, is Eric Law, DU’s leading scorer. He attended Arapahoe High School. A senior, Law has gone stick to stick against the stars from traditional eastern breeding grounds for four years.