“You see all the elements for growing the game and exposing sort of a non-traditional audience to lacrosse,” said Josh Christian, U.S. Lacrosse’s managing director for sport development. “We absolutely believe it can flourish in that area.”
The DuVal girls’ team began last spring after a grant provided sticks and goggles for 30 players along with goals and goalie equipment. The Tigers made their debut with one game in 2012 and expanded the schedule this year with a slate that featured the first game in Wise history, which the Pumas won 3-2 on April 15.
Parkdale received a grant with about $7,500 worth of equipment, and volunteer coaches have been running loosely organized practice sessions to teach the basics. Athletic Director Brian Moore believes the Panthers could join the competitive club circuit next spring.
“I wanted to wait and see if they would come back [to practice] again and again and they are,” Moore said.
Windley brought a different approach to the process at Wise, bolstering efforts to create a team before she’d even tried the sport. By November, she’d made up her mind that her school should field a team and approached Gordon to come up with a plan.
Windley garnered 104 names on a petition in a few days of collecting signatures during her lunch period and recruited Velando, who learned the sport in high school in North Carolina but had never coached it. Soon after, 55 prospective players showed up at an interest meeting.
When the season began, players were responsible for bringing their own sticks, cleats, mouthguard and goggles, which Windley said cost her approximately $100.
Early practices were devoted to the basics. Only two players had ever picked up a stick before, including the team’s top scorer, Shadia Zhakikani, who learned the game in gym class when she lived in Florida.
At the beginning, the Pumas didn’t have enough equipment.
Even Windley didn’t purchase her own purple stick until spring break about a month after practices started.
“If we only had five sticks,” Velando said, “then we shared five sticks.”
But the core players kept coming back and Velando could see the progress.
Senior Hera Butt heard about the team from Windley in biology class. She knew her cousin played the sport but not much else. She brought along her younger sister Fizah, a sophomore, to the first practice and both vowed to stick with it. Senior Alexis Hicks, another first-time athlete, ended up as the goalie “because nobody else would do it.”
Windley hopes the team will be her legacy at the school. By next year, she wants to have raised the $700 needed for regulation goals, so Wise can host its first home game. She’s reached out to the Upper Marlboro Boys’ & Girls’ Club about starting a program that would eventually feed the squad she started.
After Monday’s loss at Bowie, Windley struck up a conversation with Bulldogs senior Bridgette Leathers at the end of the handshake line. Leathers grew up playing the game and had a few tips for her opponent. Windley smiled as the veteran demonstrated cradling and soon invited her to the Wise huddle, eager to share the knowledge.
“It seems like it’s hard, but once you learn it, you got it and it’s easy.” Windley said of her newfound passion. “I just like the challenge.”