Lacrosse is on the grow in Rochester
By Donny Henn
Maureen Sanderson, 36, is the head coach of the Rochester high school girls lacrosse team. While lacrosse is new to many people in southeast Minnesota, Sanderson came from the East Coast and played the game in high school and in college. She grew up in West Hartford, Conn., and played four years at Hobart/William Smith College in Geneva, N.Y., a nationally ranked Division III program. She competed in the NCAA Final Four three times and her team finished runner-up in 1992. Maureen and her husband, Schuyler, moved to Rochester in 2002 for Schuyler’s fellowship in pathology at Mayo Clinic. The Sanderson’s have three children, Carter, 9, Joseph, 7, and Maggie, 3.
Post-Bulletin: Tell us about the status of high school lacrosse in Rochester. How many kids are participating, and is the number up sharply or a little bit?
Maureen Sanderson: There are 45 girls participating on the high school club team in town, up from 30 in 2006 which was the team's first season. It is open to girls from any of the four high schools and this year we have girls from Lourdes, Century and Mayo participating on a combined varsity/jv team. The boys have two varsity and two JV teams — Mayo/Lourdes and Century/JM — as well as a 9th/10th grade team. I believe the total number of boys participating is well over 120 this year.
P-B: Rochester's teams are still considered club teams and are not eligible to participate in the Minnesota State High School League state tournament in May. Will that change any time soon? Explain what needs to be done for that to happen.
M.S.: That's correct, although the NSLA, which is the girl's club league for the state of Minnesota, runs it's own state tournament and Rochester represented the south division in 2006. We finished 7th out of 12 teams at the tournament, which was an outstanding accompishment for the girls in their first year of playing lacrosse. In terms of joining the MSHSL, my hope is that we are able to make that move next year as a Co-op team representing Rochester. Every section for girls lacrosse at the MSHSL contains at least one Co-op team, including one from the city of Minneapolis and I would like to see Rochester join that group of teams. This will take a great deal of cooperation and communication between the local athletic coordinators, the school board and the club team administrators and coaches and I hope to be a part of that discussion.
P-B: Among the girls on your team, are you finding that many of them have left other sports to try lacrosse, or were most of them not involved in a sport before this?
M.S.: One of the things I love most about lacrosse is that it appeals to such a wide variety of girls, and our team is no exception. I have players who play soccer, basketball and hockey and are also playing lacrosse. They bring general sports knowledge and game sense which is an asset to us. I also have girls for whom lacrosse is their first team sport and they are succeeding and hopefully gaining confidence to go out and try other sports as well.
P-B: It seems that a lot of kids are giving lacrosse a try simply because it's something new and different. What is your motivation to be involved as a lacrosse coach?
M.S.: As a coach and former high school and college athlete, I believe the more choices our students have in terms of team sport participation, the better. Lacrosse is a great choice as it is a fast-paced game that is easy to pick up quickly and have success. The lessons learned playing on a team are lifelong and one of my goals is to encourage and inspire girls to give it a try. I loved playing lacrosse and want to share that passion with the girls I coach and hopefully they will carry it on and share their passion with other girls.
P-B: For the lacrosse illiterate, can you explain a few of the most basic terms? For example, what’s that thing in the players’ hands?
M.S.: Lacrossse is played with a stick (crosse) and a ball. The girls also wear goggles that protect their eyes and a mouthguard while the boys wear helmets, shoulder pads, gloves etc. The rules for the girls' and boys' games are very different. The boys' game allows for body and stick checking and hitting as opposed to the girls' game where only stick to stick contact is allowed. The girls' game is played with 12 players on the field at one time and is 50 minutes long for high school and 60 minutes long for college play. The game is played on a field 120 yards long which requires the players to do a lot of running during the course of the game. The positions include a goalie, defense (point, coverpoint, 3rd man), midfield (2 attack wings, center and 2 defense wings) and attack (1st home, 2nd home and 3rd home). It is really a combination of soccer, hockey and basketball.
P-B: Do you think lacrosse is a flash in the pan, or is it the sport of the future?
M.S.: Definitely not a flash in the pan. According to US Lacrosse, no sport has grown faster over the last 10 years at the NCAA level than lacrosse. At the youth level, the participation right here in Minnesota has grown from 500 kids participating in 2001 to over 5,000 kids in 2006, including over 1,000 girls.