Ohio Machine midfielder Jake Bernhardt moves with the ball behind the net during the Major League Lacrosse playoff semifinal event in Blaine on Aug. 13. The Machine defeated the Charlotte Hounds 16-10 to reach the league championship. Photo by Drew Herron
They came to Blaine from all corners of Minnesota, identifiable by the names and logos of local lacrosse programs ornamented across the chest of the T-shirts they wore and proudly displayed like flags.
Droves of young players of the state's fastest-growing sport flocked to the National Sports Center on Aug. 13 to catch a glimpse of professional play.
The neutral site hosted Minnesota's first Major League Lacrosse game, and a diverse crowd watched the Ohio Machine, top-seeded in this year’s playoffs, defeat the Charlotte Hounds 16-10 to reach the league championship.
Since the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) began administering the game at the varsity level 14 years ago (spring of 2003 was the first season for girls while the boys started in 2007), the number of schools fielding teams in the league has grown from a mishmash of a few dozen to nearly 160 (79 boys' squads, 78 girls'), according to the organization's website.
With an estimated 10,000 kids playing lacrosse at various levels, Minnesota is the fastest growing market in the nation, according to US Lacrosse, the sport's national governing body.
High school lacrosse is attracting more and more athletes, including those looking for alternatives to traditional sports such as baseball or softball.
“It’s a fast-paced game where you are always involved,” says Prior Lake coach Chris Fleck. “I played baseball growing up, but for some of the kids, baseball seems slow, and only one guy really gets to do something at one time. Whereas in lacrosse, the ball never stops moving.”
While the sport in the metro has taken to flight early, outstate Minnesota is starting to take interest, as well. Though striking later than the wave that hit the Twin Cities around the new millennium, it’s happening with the same kind of enthusiasm.
In the northeast, varsity co-op teams from Duluth and Hermantown/Proctor completed their first seasons in the MSHSL, and in Red Wing, there is hope of eventually adding a varsity program in the near future.
Pagel says participation and skill development have grown significantly in the two years since he helped found the community's youth program, suggested in part by the team's Youth Lacrosse Minnesota (YLM) state tournament berth this season following a winless inaugural season.
“We’re at the front end of it right now in Red Wing,” Pagel says. “But I think it’s growing as fast as it is in Minnesota because it’s a genuinely entertaining game. It offers movement, contact and a lot of action. For some of those kids who find baseball boring, it’s a great spring and summer option.”
Though data suggests youth baseball participation appears to be as healthy as ever, a growing number of the state's children are picking up lacrosse. Many find the crossover between hockey and lacrosse to be natural, though others are attracted by the pace of the action.
“It’s high intensity and fast-paced,” says 14-year-old Marcus King, who has played with the Red Wing program its inception. “Since I became aware of the sport, I’ve been really interested in it.”
Red Wing’s likely next step toward a varsity program is to field a team in the Minnesota Boys’ Scholastic Lacrosse Association, a competitive club level league which has served as a springboard for many metro schools that now have MSHSL varsity programs.
“It’s something we are hoping to have for next season,” Pagel said.
In Prior Lake, the Lakers boys’ team posted a 15-4 record in MSHSL play, and in June, captured its first state championship in the sport. It was the culmination of a steady and impressive climb for a community program that boasts more than 300 players who feed high school teams that host about another 100 players.
Prior to the game, thousands arrived early to take part in the fan zone experience outside the gates at the NSC. Lacrosse players were able to test new equipment, play games, or take part in activities centered around the sport. Photo by Drew Herron
“The big thing is to build from the ground up,” says Fleck, who remains deeply involved in the youth program and likes to know the names and faces of his players — from the seniors to the first-graders. “It’s special to be a part of this kind of growth.”
At the college level, the Upper Midwest Lacrosse Conference and Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association provide a burgeoning level of competitive play.
The non-NCAA organizations fall under the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association, a federation of more than 200 varsity teams at schools where NCAA lacrosse doesn’t exist, including at several post-secondary institutions in Minnesota. The UMLC has two classifications, with the University of Minnesota competing in Division I (or the upper level) and Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State Mankato, St. Cloud State, St. Thomas, St. John’s and Winona State fielding men’s squads in Division II.
The women’s game is growing beyond the local NCAA Division III programs at Augsburg, Hamline and the University of Northwestern (Roseville) with the launch of the program at St. Paul's Concordia University — the state's first in Division II. It’s a significant step because Division II programs offer athletic scholarships.
As more Minnesotans grow up with lacrosse, and players continue to become familiar with the sport, the hope is the landscape will continue changing.
Fans and players point to Mark Coyle's hiring as athletic director at the University of Minnesota as a possible step to bring Division I teams to Dinkytown. Coyle, who previously held the same position at lacrosse-mad Syracuse, has seen firsthand what the appetite for the sport is like on the East Coast — which is a cult following akin to college hockey in Minnesota.
“We feel like there is an opportunity here to show people that we deserve to have a DI program,” says Gophers midfielder Chandler Sampson, a four-year starter and first team all-state player as a senior at Orono High School in 2014.
Sampson began his collegiate career at Division I Massachusetts-Lowell before joining Minnesota men’s squad.
The Gophers sophomore has deep roots with the game. He began playing lacrosse in sixth grade when his father helped start Orono's youth program, and his younger brother Corbin, who just completed his junior year, is a three-year starter in goal for the Spartans.
To a new generation of Minnesotans, lacrosse is no longer a fringe sport, but rather a front-line one.
“It’s so fast, and so intense,” Sampson says. “How can you not absolutely love this sport?”
Tag(s): Home MBSLA - Junior Varsity - 9th/10th - 7th/8th - Varsity - North - Varsity - South MontiQuois St. Cloud North Duluth Forest Lake Henry Sibley Spring Lake Park St. Paul Hastings Mankato Buffalo Orono St. Louis Park Forest Lake-JV Hastings-JV Mankato-JV MontiQuois-JV Spring Lake Pk-JV St. Cloud-JV St. Louis Park-JV Duluth 1-JV Robbinsdale Armstrong-9/10 Jefferson-FS Benilde-St. Margaret's-9/10 Burnsville-9/10 Chaska-Chanhassen-9/10 Eagan-9/10 Eden Prairie Red-9/10 Edina-9/10 Lakeville-9/10 Mahtomedi 1-9/10 Maple Grove-9/10 Minnetonka-9/10 Osseo-Park Center-9/10 O-PC 2-9/10 Owatonna-9/10 Prior Lake Navy-9/10 Rosemount-9/10 Roseville-9/10 St. Louis Park-9/10 STA-9/10 Stillwater North-9/10 Wayzata-9/10 White Bear Lake-FS Woodbury-9/10 Apple Valley-U15 ACYLA Blue-U15 Blake-U15 Bloomington-U15 Benilde-St.M-U15 Buffalo-U15 Centennial-U15A Chaska-Chan Purple-U15 Chaska-Chan Blue-U15 Delano Black-U15 Eagan Blue-U15 Eagan Gray-U15 Eastview-U15A Edina-U15A Edina-U15 Elk River 1-U15 Farmington-U15 Hastings Gold-U15 Hastings-U15 Hopkins-MS IGH-U15 Lakeville 1-U15 Lakeville 2-U15 Lakeville 3-U15 Mahtomedi Navy-U15 Mahtomedi 2-MS Maple Grove Gold-U15 Minnetonka Blue-U15 MontiQuois-U15 Minneapolis-U15 Mounds View-U15 Orono Red-MS Owatonna-U15 Prior Lake Gold-U15 Rosemount-U15 Roseville-U15 St. Cloud North-U15 St. Thomas Academy-U15 STA 2-MS Stillwater-U15A Wayzata-U15A White Bear Lake-U15A White Bear Lake 2-U15 Shattuck-St. Mary's Farmington Shakopee-JV Trinity School-JV Shattuck-St.Mary's-JV Farmington-JV Delano-JV Delano-9/10 Eagan 2-FS Eastview A-9/10 Grand Rapids-FS Holy Angels-9/10 Hudson-9/10 Bloomington Kennedy-9/10 Totino-Grace-9/10 Eastview-U15 Grand Rapids-U15 Duluth-U15 Minnetonka White-U15 Orono-U15 Prior Lake Navy-U15 Rosemount Gold-U15 Rosemount 3-MS Spring Lake Park-U15 Stillwater 2-MS Woodbury-U15 White Bear 3-MS Eden Prairie 2-FS Anoka-Ramsey-U15 Blaine-U15 MontiQuois 2-MS Featured News 2005 2004 Varsity North Red River Valley Brainerd Duluth Grand Cities Grand Rapids Proctor East Hudson St. Paul South Mankato Northfield Shakopee Shattuck-St. Mary's Waconia West Becker MontiQuois Providence Academy St. Michael-Albertville St. Cloud North Wayzata Henry Sibley St. Louis Park Junior Varsity Anoka-JV Becker-JV Duluth 1-JV Grand Rapids-JV Mankato-JV MontiQuois-JV New Century Proctor-JV Shakopee-JV Shattuck-St.Mary's-JV St. Cloud North-JV St. Louis Park-JV St. Michael-Albertville-JV St. Paul-JV Trinity School-JV Chisago Lakes-JV Chaska-Chan-JV Duluth-2-JV Hudson-JV Under-15 U15 North Division Andover-U15 Anoka-Ramsey-U15 ACYLA Blue-U15 Becker-U15 Blaine-U15 Buffalo-U15 Centennial-U15 Delano Black-U15 Duluth-U15 Elk River 1-U15 Fargo-U15 Grand Rapids-U15 Mahtomedi-U15 Maple Grove-U15 Minneapolis-U15 New Century-U15 Spring Lake Park-U15 St. Cloud North-U15 St. Cloud South-U15 Stillwater-U15 White Bear Lake-U15 U15 South Division Apple Valley-U15 Benilde-St.M-U15 Blake-U15 Breck-U15 Chaska-Chan Blue-U15 Chaska-Chan Purple-U15 Eagan Blue-U15 Eagan Green-U15 Eagan White-U15 Eastview-U15 Edina-U15 Farmington-U15 Lakeville 1-U15 Lakeville 2-U15 Northfield-U15 Oakdale-U15 Orono-U15 Owatonna-U15 Rochester-U15 Rosemount-U15 Shakopee-U15 St. Louis Park-U15 St. Thomas Academy-U15 Wayzata-U15 Woodbury-U15 Bloomington-U15 Eden Prairie-U15 9th-10th Grades Andover-9/10 Apple Valley-9/10 Robbinsdale Armstrong-9/10 Benilde-St. Margaret's-9/10 Blaine-9/10 Bloomington Kennedy-9/10 Centennial-9/10 Champlin Park-9/10 Chaska-Chanhassen-9/10 Eden Prairie Black-9/10 Eden Prairie Red-9/10 Edina-9/10 Forest Lake-9/10 Mahtomedi 1-9/10 Maple Grove-9/10 Minnetonka-9/10 Northfield-9/10 Osseo-Park Center-9/10 Rosemount-9/10 Roseville-9/10 St. Louis Park-9/10 Stillwater North-9/10 Stillwater South-9/10 Totino-Grace-9/10 Woodbury-9/10 Burnsville-9/10 Park-9/10 White Bear Lake-9/10 Under-13 ACYLA-U13 Andover-U13 Anoka-Ramsey-U13 Blaine-U13 Bloomington-U13 Buffalo-U13 Centennial Red-U13 Centennial White-U13 Delano-U13 Duluth 1-U13 Eastview Black-U13 Eastview Blue-U13 Elk River Red-U13 Elk River Black-U13 Farmington-U13 Forest Lake 1-U13 Hudson 1-U13 Inver Grove Heights-U13 Lakeville 1-U13 Lakeville 2-U13 Lakeville 3-U13 Mahtomedi 1-U13 Mahtomedi 2-U13 Minneapolis Red-U13 Minneapolis White-U13 MontiQuois-U13 New Century-U13 Orono Blue-U13 Orono Red-U13 Owatonna-U13 Rochester Century-U13 Rochester JM-U13 Roseville Black-U13 St. Louis Park 1-U13 St. Louis Park 2-U13 Spring Lake Park 1-U13 Woodbury Blue-U13 Under-11 Buffalo Black-U11 Centennial Black-U11 Eastview-U11 Elk River 1-U11 Farmington-U11 Forest Lake 1-U11 Minneapolis Red-U11 Orono 1-U11 Owatonna-U11 Rochester Blue-U11 2012 Under-9 Buffalo-U9 Centennial-U9 Eastview-U9 Elk River-U9 Minneapolis-U9 Owatonna-U9 Waconia-JV Northfield-JV Cretin-Derham Hall-9/10 East Ridge-9/10 Holy Angels-9/10 North-9/10 Mahtomedi 2-9/10 U13 North U13 South Delano White-U15 Mounds View-U15 Osseo-Park Center-U15 River Lakes-U15 Providence-U15 Apple Valley-U13 Chaska-Chan Blue-U13 Chaska-Chan Purple-U13 Eagan 1-U13 Eagan 2-U13 Eagan 3-U13 Eagan 5-U13 Edina 1-U13 Edina 2-U13 Hudson 2-U13 Northfield-U13 Oakdale-U13 Rochester Mayo-U13 Rosemount 1-U13 Rosemount 2-U13 Shakopee-U13 Woodbury Black-U13 Becker-U13 Wayzata Gold-U13 Centennial Black-U13 Duluth 2-U13 Fargo-U13 Forest Lake 2-U13 Grand Rapids 1-U13 Grand Rapids 2-U13 Mahtomedi 3-U13 Mahtomedi 4-U13 Maple Grove-U13 Mounds View Green-U13 Mounds View White-U13 River Lakes-U13 Rogers-U13 Roseville Silver-U13 St. Cloud North-U13 St. Cloud South-U13 STMA 1-U13 STMA 2-U13 Spring Lake Park 2-U13 Wayzata Blue-U13 Buffalo-9/10 ACYLA Red-U15 Elk River 2-U15 White Bear Lake 1-U13 White Bear Lake 2-U13 ACYLA-U11 New Century-U11 Eagan 4-U13 Becker-U11 Bloomington-U11 Buffalo Purple-U11 Centennial Red-U11 Centennial White-U11 Duluth-U11 Elk River 2-U11 Forest Lake 2-U11 Mahtomedi Gold-U11 Mahtomedi Navy-U11 Minneapolis White-U11 MontiQuois-U11 Mounds View-U11 Rochester White-U11 Spring Lake Park-U11 St. Louis Park-U11 Stillwater 1-U11 Stillwater 2-U11 Stillwater 3-U11 Orono 2-U11 Roseville-U11 Mahtomedi-U9 Mounds View-U9 Roseville-U9 Spring Lake Park-U9 Stillwater 1-U9 Stillwater 2-U9 Rochester-U9 Woodbury-U11 Hastings-9/10 Elk River-9/10 New Team Rankings Boys' MSHSL Big 9 Northfield Owatonna Rochester Century Rochester JM / Lourdes Rochester Mayo IMAC Blake Breck Providence Academy TrIMAC Independent St. Cloud St. Paul Lake Eden Prairie Edina Hopkins Minnetonka Wayzata Metro East Hastings Hill-Murray Mahtomedi North St. Paul Simley St. Thomas Academy Tartan Metro West Benilde-St. Margaret's Bloomington Jefferson Bloomington Kennedy Chanhassen Chaska Robbinsdale Cooper St. Louis Park GWMLC Buffalo Monticello Rogers St. Michael-Albertville Northwest Suburban Andover Anoka Blaine Centennial Champlin Park Coon Rapids Elk River Maple Grove Osseo/Park Center Irondale Spring Lake Park Totino-Grace South Suburban Apple Valley Burnsville Eagan Eastview Farmington Lakeville North Lakeville South Prior Lake Rosemount Shakopee Suburban East Cretin-Derham Hall East Ridge Forest Lake Mounds View Park of Cottage Grove Roseville Stillwater Team Events Calendar White Bear Lake Woodbury Holy Angels Minneapolis Delano Holy Family Orono Hutchinson Nonleague Columbine, CO University School, WI Shattuck-St. Mary's Mankato East Marquette (Wisc.) Madison Regents (Wis.) Holmen (Wis.) New Trier (Ill.) Girls' MSHSL Big 9 Northfield Owatonna Rochester JM/Lourdes Rochester Mayo Rochester Century IMAC Blake Breck Minnehaha Academy Independent Becker Minneapolis Shattuck-St. Mary's St. Cloud Area St. Croix Prep St. Paul Lake Eden Prairie Edina Hopkins Minnetonka Wayzata Metro East Hastings Hill-Murray Mahtomedi North St. Paul Tartan Metro West Benilde-St. Margaret's Bloomington Jefferson Bloomington Kennedy Chanhassen Chaska Robbinsdale Cooper St. Louis Park Buffalo Monticello St. Michael-Albertville Northwest Suburban Andover Anoka Blaine Centennial Champlin Park Coon Rapids Elk River Irondale Maple Grove Osseo/Park Center Spring Lake Park Totino-Grace South Suburban Apple Valley Burnsville Eagan Eastview Farmington Lakeville North Lakeville South Prior Lake Rosemount Shakopee Suburban East Cretin-Derham Hall East Ridge Forest Lake Mounds View Park of Cottage Grove Roseville Stillwater White Bear Lake Woodbury Tri-Metro Columbia Heights Holy Angels Visitation Delano Holy Family Mound Westonka Orono Hutchinson Out of state Glenbard West (Ill.) Loyola Academy Montini Catholic New Trier Regina Dominican Maine South (Ill.) Arrowhead Union (WI) Mukwonago (WI) Duluth Sartell/Sauk Rapids Mankato Hermantown/Proctor Robbinsdale Armstrong Robbinsdale Armstrong GWMLC Sartell/Sauk Rapids Lake Forest (Ill.) Hermantown/Proctor Duluth Mankato Section 1 Section 2 Section 3 Section 4 Section 5 Section 6 Section 7 Section 8 Section 1 Section 2 Section 3 Section 4 Section 5 Section 6 Section 7 Section 8