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Mid-Hudson reflects trend across nation

Posted Wednesday, April 02, 2008 by Scott Cantara

Lacrosse might be the hottest sport around
Mid-Hudson reflects trend across nation
Middletown's Steve Heater tries to get past a Red Hook defender during a scrimmage on March 24, 2008.Times Herald-Record/TOM BUSHEYBy Mira Wassef

Times Herald-Record
April 02, 2008
Some had to be recruited, some came voluntarily and some demanded their schools start a program. But eventually they all took to the new "it" sport.

Football players, soccer players and wrestlers slowly kick-started the lacrosse movement in Section 9 a little less than a decade ago.

Ever since, lacrosse has been the fastest-growing sport in Section 9.

This season, Middletown High added boys' and girls' varsity lacrosse teams, while Highland and Delaware Valley added boys' programs to give Section 9 a total of 30 teams.

"Two years ago we started jayvee, and lacrosse was a natural fit for us," Middletown athletic director David Coates said. "It was student and district initiated. Kids were coming to the office and asking about it and the district put the funding in it. It's a good thing because we're getting more kids involved in athletics that weren't originally participating in any sport."

Lacrosse is the oldest sport in North America, and it was used by Native Americans to train for warfare.

Daniel Baskerville, who is a senior captain and plays defense for the Middies, is a linebacker who started playing lacrosse three years ago after Middletown coach Scott Cantara encouraged him to try out.

"It's hard to pick up at first, then it grows on you," Baskerville said. "Now it's my favorite sport. I enjoy hitting someone, it gives you a rush. Last year, I couldn't throw or catch but I've improved a lot since I started."

The Middletown girls' jayvee team, which had 23 players last year, pushed to go varsity. Coach Megan Johnston had around 20 new players try out this season.

"I think the girls are more dedicated to it now," said Johnston, who held intramurals during the off-season to scout talent. "I think it says a lot about the sport that new girls keep trying out every year."

Kingston, which is the only school that has a modified program, was one of the first schools to offer lacrosse when it started as a club team back in 1984. In 1999, Kingston and O'Neill were the only two boys' varsity lacrosse teams in the area. Kingston, O'Neill, Washingtonville and Monroe-Woodbury then added girls' lacrosse in 2001, but prior to that, there were some female athletes at Kingston who played on the boys' team for a couple of seasons.

"Lacrosse is popular because it's unlike other sports that are so specialized, like baseball or softball," Kingston athletic director Glen Maisch said. "It's constant non-stop action. Only a gifted few can play baseball or softball. But lacrosse is the ultimate team game."

Minisink Valley added girls' and boys' jayvee programs this season after starting varsity programs two seasons ago.

"I think it's an up-and-coming sport," Minisink Valley athletic director Frank Carrozza said. "The kids took to it right away."

According to U.S. Lacrosse and the National Federation of State High School Associations, lacrosse is the fastest-growing high school sport in the country. In the past 10 years, lacrosse has grown by 227.1 percent.

"It's growing and taking over every year," Cantara said. "It mirrors lacrosse across the nation."

"It's such an intense game," said Middletown senior captain Steven Heater, who also plays quarterback. "Coach talked me into it and I tried it, and now I like it more than football."

mwassef@th-record.com

By the numbers
A look at the number of high school lacrosse players, according to National Federation of High School statistics:

2001: 100,925

2002: 120,781

2003: 119,079

2004: 133,857

2005: 147,042

2006: 169,625

2007: 201,250

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