Northeast popularity of lacrosse appears headed for Southwest

For the first time in its 27-year history, Corona del Sol High School will field a club lacrosse team for the 2005 season.

The team will consist largely of freshmen and sophomores who have already gained experience playing for the Kyrene Warriors, a junior high school team entering its third season in 2005.

Preliminary practices will be held at Hangar Park.

Founded in 2002 by coaches Mark Burnside and Cliff Prausa, the team is designed to teach younger participants the game and eventually feed players to the high school program.

In its first season, the team suffered through an 0-10 record but showed tremendous improvement in its second year, posting five wins and five losses.

Also, the team produced a two-time All-State player in Jordy Patterson and an All-State Honorable Mention goalie with Zerric Butters. Patterson will play for Corona in 2005.

In its first year, by rule of the Arizona Youth Lacrosse League, Corona will only participate on the junior-varsity level but will still compete with several nearby high schools that field varsity teams as well, including Desert Vista, Mountain Pointe, Dobson and Hamilton.

Lacrosse exists only as a club sport because the Arizona Interscholastic Association, the authority that governs every major high school sport in Arizona, has not yet approved lacrosse, although approval is expected in coming years. The AIA has also not yet approved high school ice hockey, a similar game.

AYLL, founded in 1996, is currently the governing body for junior high and high school lacrosse in Arizona. It started with only four junior high teams in 1997 and has since expanded to 18 high school varsity teams, 13 junior varsity teams and 14 junior high school teams in 2004, including two teams from Tucson.

The league’s growth has echoed the sport’s exploding popularity nationally over the last few years, and in the last year has enjoyed increased attention due to the relocation to Arizona of a professional lacrosse team, the Arizona Sting.

As a club team, Corona has seen little financial support from the school thus far and will continue to rely almost solely on fundraising to be able to fund team functions, practices and games.

Lacrosse is a relatively expensive sport, with a requirement for lacrosse goals, balls and other equipment, field registration costs, field painting costs and uniforms, among other costs.

In addition, each player individually provides his own stick and protective equipment, which can cost from $100 to $500.

A two-month clinic starts Oct. 5 for the team, which will serve to teach the older athletes that have never played the necessary skill of the game and to offer opportunity to practice and refine skills for those incoming freshmen and sophomores and the few others that already have experience playing with the Warriors and elsewhere.

For three hours, three days a week, the student athletes will work on lacrosse fundamentals, with an additional emphasis on conditioning. The season begins in late January.

Coaches are still in high demand for the team, so if interested, call Mark Burnside at (480) 753-4495.