Weeks spent cradling, chasing after loose balls, and clamping off the offense is about to pay off for Edina High School’s lacrosse teams. Both boys’ and girls’ teams have their sights set high entering the 2011 spring season. While winter training sessions have honed their skills and toned their muscles, the success of Edina lacrosse has been years in the making.
It could be said that Edina breeds lacrosse players with their strong community commitment to the fastest growing sport in America, with the Edina Lacrosse Association (ELA) marking its 10th anniversary this year. What started with two locals, Mark Katz and Tim Brownell, tossing a ball around in Arden Park in 1996 has turned into one of the biggest lacrosse programs in Minnesota. The ELA currently offers leagues for youth in third grade and continues with support up through the high school program. Joe Burke, former Edina Lacrosse Association president, says that more than140 third- and fourth-graders participated in the program last year.
Edina lacrosse is continuing to groom its players with the addition of coaching staff from the Minnesota Swarm. Joe Cinosky, Ryan Hurley and Scott Rogers have all put their poles in the circle promoting teamwork and advancing skills.
“It’s actually a really awesome opportunity,” says Tony Violante, one of four captains to Edina’s boys’ varsity team. “It’s pretty crazy to meet guys like that who have played the game so long and professionally. They teach us everything they’ve learned on a professional level and bring it down to a high school level.”
Violante takes his role as captain seriously. “You need to set a good example for the rest of the team through you actions. You are a part of the team not above the team,” he says. On top of fostering attitudes of teamwork, Edina lacrosse grows players with winning aspirations. Violante’s hopes for this coming season? Winning. After a loss to the Academy of Holy Angels early in the play-offs last year, the boys are aiming high. “I want to make it to state,” he says. “I think all of the captains and the whole team have the same mindset, we’re really trying to take it there.”
The girls’ side is just as vivacious. Coming off a 2010 season undefeated with a devastating loss in one of their sectional games, the Edina varsity girls’ team is back and working to take it all the way. Tess Rodriguez, one of three team captains, has been taking the field since 6th grade, starting with her involvement in ELA youth programs.
“We had such a great season last year,” says Rodriguez. “We have lost some important seniors so I think we’re going into this year trying to live up to what we established last year.” The girls’ team certainly established themselves as they ranked 6th in the Midwest last year. “We’re becoming more well-regarded in Minnesota and the Midwest in general,” notes Rodriguez.
The girls’ team is planning a trip to Chicago this year and is up for fierce competition. While rivalries do exist, Rodriguez keeps her team centered on sportsmanship. “We focus on working hard, but not taking it too seriously,” she explains. “We make sure to keep that camaraderie. Lacrosse has always been a very friendly sport.”
Girls’ coach Beth Neary, Rodriguez’ coach ever since she picked up a stick, backs her captain’s look toward a successful season. “We are looking forward to a great year this year,” she says. “We have a lot of the same girls coming back and three captains that are incredibly strong leaders and have been doing a lot of off-season work to get the girls ready for try-outs.” And try-outs don’t just constitute 50 or so young women. “Last year we had over 100 girls try out. It’s growing every single year,” Neary says. “This year we’re having four teams and it’s the first year we’ve ever had a freshmen team.”
With programs digging as deep as 3rd grade, coaching staff stacked with professional players, and big hearts for the game of stick and net, Edina lacrosse is destined to be stiff competition for years to come and definitely will be the teams to watch.
To learn more about how to become involved in Edina lacrosse, and to access team game schedules, visit the Edina Lacrosse Association website.
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