If you combined soccer, hockey, football and basketball into one sport, you’d come out with the stick-and-ball game that is lacrosse. The sport, traditionally played on the East Coast, has exploded in popularity. Since 2000, participation rates have tripled to more than 700,000 players in the U.S.
And now, that number will grow by 17 as The College of Idaho Women’s Lacrosse Club starts its inaugural season.
“I was really excited when [C of I men’s lacrosse coach] Matt Gier reached out to me and said we had enough women to do this,” said Jayson Sullivan, the new head coach.
On a cloudy afternoon dripping with rain, the women showed up to the lawn outside the Kathryn Albertson Activities Center. They tied their cleats, grabbed their sticks, and started warming up by throwing the ball back and forth.
Most have never played the sport of lacrosse. Some only have a few practices and scrimmages from last year under their belts. But not even a little cold rain—or the weight of midterm week—could stop them from learning this new and exciting game together.
The journey to becoming a club sport started last year as C of I students Christine Pantiledes and Sarah Aranguiz started asking women across campus to come out for practice. After getting a small squad together, they had three practices before participating in the local Hot Potato lacrosse tournament. Among the women were Amber Tavener and Jaecee Munger.
“I played soccer in high school, and I missed the whole team aspect because I don’t play any sports at the C of I,” said Tavener, who’d never played lacrosse before last year. “So I joined, and it’s been awesome.”
After the fall, only five women consistently showed up to the student-run practices in the spring. Giving up hope on having a season, the team turned in their uniforms. Then, the squad learned they had a scrimmage against Boise State the next weekend. With only five girls, the squad ended up having to borrow players from BSU. And the score wasn’t favorable. The whole experience of trying to get a team together last year?
But this year, the team is officially a club, with a coach and enough women to field a full 12-member team. They’ll play in the Hot Potato tournament again this fall, and will have an eight-game schedule this spring—hopefully with a home game.
“I can see improvements from all these girls who have never played before,” Munger said. “Last year, Amber and I went out looking like chickens with our heads cut off. Now, the other girls are looking up to us and we only have a year of experience.”
“And they’ve all bought sticks, so now they have to stay,” Tavener said.
Among the new recruits are Emily Bartlett and Hadley Reeves, who have never played lacrosse. They’ve seen their game improve by leaps and bounds over the first five weeks of practice. But learning a new sport comes with challenges. And the biggest one they’ve faced so far?
“Cradling [the ball],” they said in unison.
Each player is looking forward to getting out on the field this spring and competing against other collegiate clubs. Lacrosse may not be the sport they’ve grown up with, but it’s the one they’ve now adopted. There will be struggles and challenges to overcome, especially in their first year. But these women are starting from scratch to build the C of I lacrosse team from the ground up, and paving the way for future Yotes to play.
“Hopefully it just carries on and keeps getting bigger here,” Sullivan said. “It can give the women another option. If they’re not into other sports, then maybe we can make lacrosse players out of them.”
The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.