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Lacrosse catching on as high school club teams

Whitney’s Elmore joins T’wolves
By: Jim Linsdau Placer Herald Sports Editor
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ROSEVILLE _ The game of lacrosse may be new to the area but its roots date back nearly 900 years. As its popularity grows a number of local high school students have joined Woodcreek’s Lacrosse Club to compete in the Northern California Junior Lacrosse Association’s East League. One of their players is Spencer Elmore, a student at Whitney High School. Elmore took up lacrosse while living in Missouri and hoped to continue the game after moving to California. Fortunately, Woodcreek started its club in 2009, just in time for the junior to continue playing a sport that has become his favorite. “My brother played for the high school team (in Missouri) and I really wanted to get into it,” Elmore said before Woodcreek’s match with Pleasant Grove. “We moved to California and I started playing my freshman year and fell in love with it.” Lacrosse is played on a field a little larger than a football field. There are nine players on each side plus a goalkeeper. The game was very popular among the Indian tribes of North America and played long before the European settlers arrived. Each player has what is called a “stick,” or crosse, with a small net or mesh on the end. The ball, made of rubber, and about the size of a billiard ball, is carried in the net to advance it. The ball can be kicked, but not picked up or touched by the hand. The crosse can vary in length and net size. “The goalie has a wider stick,” said Elmore, referring to the webbing on the goalie’s crosse. The attack player’s stick is about 3 feet in length, and a limited number of defense and mid field players use one about 6-feet in length. The idea is to get control of the ball and pass it between players until a goal can be scored. The teams are divided into three separate positions – three attack players, three mid fielders, and three on defense. They have certain areas on the field where they can play with the mid fielders having the most latitude. “A lot of the offense is generated from behind the goal, which is one of the distinct things that make lacrosse different from other sports,” Elmore said. “There is a lot of game play behind the goal to try and come around the net and try to score.” There is an area around the goal called a “crease” where the offense cannot penetrate. The goal is 6-feet by 6-feet; getting the ball into the net constitutes one point and then the teams have a face off at midfield to again begin play. Limited contact is allowed, but tripping and hitting an opponent above the neck or below the waist can result in a penalty where a player must sit out for a certain period of time, similar to hockey. Substitutions can be done on the run without an official’s OK. Players do wear helmets and limited padding for the shoulders and torso. The weather the day of the game was horrendous with high winds, rain and cool temperatures. Elmore was further hindered by an illness he had been dealing with that week. And Pleasant Grove was a very experienced team. After four quarters of play, Pleasant Grove’s Eagles came away with a 13-3 victory. “They have a lot of talent out there that have played 10 more years than we have,” said first-year Woodcreek head coach Mike Strong of Pleasant Grove. “Our kids have been playing, at the most, three or four years.” The Woodcreek Lacrosse Club was started by Paul Greenfield after moving from Granite Bay. His son, Kyle Greenhill, had played in Granite Bay and was disappointed to find Woodcreek didn’t have a team. So Paul Greenfield, with the help of others, formed the Timberwolves’ lacrosse club. “We are affiliated with the high school basically as a club program attached to the boosters,” said Paul Greenfield. “The boosters are part of the high school so we’re essentially attached to the high school.” However, as a club, students in the area attending other high schools can play for Woodcreek. There are three levels to the club, under 15, junior varsity, and varsity. Most clubs, like Pleasant Grove, have younger levels giving their programs an advantage. Still, playing for a new club doesn’t mean hardship on the playing field. Members, like Elmore, have previous experience, and as time goes along Woodcreek anticipates adding younger divisions. Elmore said his club did have a winning record in spite of being a new team. “I pretty much knew coming into this game it was going to rough,” Elmore said. “Overall, it comes down to experience.” Elmore said he also plays in a summer league where the competition is more difficult. Woodcreek also offers lacrosse in the fall to help the players gain additional experience. Lacrosse also offers high school athletes scholarship opportunities, but the colleges are almost exclusively in the east. Girls lacrosse is also growing in popularity but is not offered by the Woodcreek club. The Timberwolves were off to San Diego during spring break for the Jam by the Sea tournament; another advantage of playing lacrosse. More information on lacrosse and the NCJLA can be found at ncjla.org. Northern California Junior Lacrosse Association East Boys High School Clubs Elk Grove Gladiators Folsom United Orangevale Rams Pleasant Grove Eagles Stockton Spartans Woodcreek Timberwolves