PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — One of the fastest growing sports in the country is lacrosse, and right here in central Illinois, high school lacrosse teams are missing the field more than ever.
“We had a chance to have a really fun, exciting year this year especially year two for our program,” Washington coach Zach Davis said. “We set the bar pretty high for ourselves last year. We were kind of wanting to raise the standard a little bit more, especially trying to grow the sport in this area. We had a really good group of kids that were going to make our community proud.”
A third central Illinois school was set to join Dunlap and Washington in the IHSA lacrosse ranks this spring, as Bloomington, Normal Community and Normal West created boys and girls co-op teams.
“A little bit bitter for our seniors, because they’ve spent many years playing youth lacrosse trying to get to the point where they would play meaningful high school lacrosse,” Bloomington-Normal lacrosse coach Tom Schniedwind said. “These guys want to play lacrosse in the worst kind of ways, and we will do that soon, hang in there.”
Area coaches say the best way to grow the game of lacrosse in central Illinois is through the youth movement. Getting young lacrosse players into programs and out watching lacrosse games.
“Growing the youth program which is here in the Bloomington-Normal community, Dunlap and Washington have excellent youth, so that you’re bringing kids up and along so that they are interested in the next level,” Schniedwind said.
“Continuing to give them something to look forward to as they are coming through the system of when you get into high school, you’ll have the chance to play boys or girls lacrosse, and that’s really cool,” Davis added.
High school teams are holding on to a glimmer of hope: Perhaps in the following months there can be some form of lacrosse games for the graduating seniors.
“I think it’d be great, especially for this area, be able to get a game against Dunlap or Bloomington-Normal, that’d be awesome,” Davis said. “Just to get those kids to play one game.”