“I didn’t know how it would happen,” Windley said. “I just knew right then that I wanted to play.”
Now a junior at Wise, Windley worked feverishly in recent months to turn her plan to bring the sport to the Upper Marlboro public school into reality.
Thanks to the former cheerleader’s efforts, the Pumas are among a handful of fledgling club high school lacrosse teams to pop up recently in Prince George’s County, one of just three school systems in the state without at least one team on the varsity level. Six girls’ teams and three boys’ teams have played games this season and at other schools, the groundwork is being laid for future teams.
The Wise team practices on an unlined field using hockey goals borrowed from the physical education department and equipment purchased by the players. Yet volunteer coach Nydia Velando and the 15 rostered players, a majority of whom had never played a sport at the school, have the lofty goal of someday becoming a varsity squad.
Entering their fifth and final game of the season Friday at C.H. Flowers, the Pumas are already an unlikely success story, showing the fast-growing game’s potential in the county.
“The first time we came out here and practiced, the girls didn’t know what cradling was. They didn’t know how to catch or pass,” said Velando, also the school’s girls’ soccer coach. “I feel like now we are understanding the game better and we’re able to think more as a team, moving from the basics into the actual game.”
Eleanor Roosevelt and Bowie have had lacrosse club teams for more than a decade fed by local youth programs, but in areas where the game has been slower to take hold, more teams are appearing, boosted by eager players, coaches and administrators.
At Wise, sport participation lags in the spring without the draw of basketball or football. Of the 2,257 enrolled students, only 118 play county-sponsored spring sports (tennis, baseball, softball and track & field), according to Wise Athletic Director Jason Gordon. Adding in the 15 girls’ lacrosse players makes the total number of female spring athletes higher than male (68-65).
Earl Hawkins, the county’s director of athletics, said he has not approached the county school board about the possibility of adding another varsity sport but would do so if at least 40 percent of the district’s 22 high schools were to have club teams in either boys’ or girls’ lacrosse.
“Now the parents are starting to see it and ask about it,” said Bowie girls’ coach Scott Jones, a volunteer who helped start the boys’ team at the school in 1996 and explored interest from the rest of the county with little success back then. “Once the parents start asking about it at these other schools, hopefully, it will build some momentum.”