Woolwich girls part of contingent with strong showing at lacrosse provincials

Field lacrosse players from Woolwich township competed in provincials this past weekend at the Oshawa Civic Athletic Complex in Oshawa. Back row: Megan Hume, Alexis McKenzie and Taylor Schmitt, all from the U13 team. Front, Tavia Cowburn from the U11 team.
Field lacrosse players from Woolwich township competed in provincials this past weekend at the Oshawa Civic Athletic Complex in Oshawa. Back row: Megan Hume, Alexis McKenzie and Taylor Schmitt, all from the U13 team. Front, Tavia Cowburn from the U11 team. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]

Lacrosse continues to grow in popularity among girls in the township, with local LAX United wrapping up a successful lacrosse season this past weekend at provincials in Oshawa.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Girls United Field Lacrosse sent U11, U13, U15 and U19 teams to compete at the Ontario Lacrosse Association’s championships this past weekend.

“The girls all had a great time at provincials,” said Ken Lubert, director of girls field lacrosse in KW and U19 coach. “Our top team was the U13s – they didn’t medal, but competed in the top division and ended the season ranked fifth in the province.”

Lubert explains teams are seeded into three categories to compete at the provincial level, the A, B and C divisions – with A being the top of the league.

The U11 and U19 teams both won silver over the weekend.

“The U11s played incredibly well and made it to the finals with a huge 10-4 win over Orangeville. The final was a nail-biter and saw the girls lose a close 8-6 battle with Kawartha,” he said. “The U19s entered the final in similar fashion with a big 11-4 semi-final win over Oakville, only to drop a close 8-5 gold medal game to Newmarket.”

Lubert notes that while the U15s didn’t medal, they finished with an impressive 8th place provincial ranking and missed out on the semi-finals after a heart-breaking 7-6 quarter-final loss to Owen Sound.

“All in all, it was a great weekend for KW and our Woolwich contingent,” said Lubert.

Among those competing was Tavia Cowburn, a 9-year-old from Breslau Public School. Cowburn played field lacrosse again this year after starting with the K-W league last year.

Winning silver this past weekend, she started playing after seeing her older brother take part in the sport, but was soon picked out to compete with the older girls.

“She is a ‘98. She is actually so good that she is playing with the U11s,” said Lubert.

From the U13 team, fellow Woolwich resident Taylor Schmitt was part of the squad that finished fifth in the province.

Schmitt started playing field lacrosse after beginning her LAX career in box lacrosse.

“I started playing field lacrosse because I had started out with box and thought field could be easy for me. I got into it and it was enjoyable,” she said. “I love the sport.

With girls from the township on each of the four representing teams, girls lacrosse in the area has seen growth in the past years.

“Our numbers are just growing exponentially and a lot of that is the kids from Elmira and Breslau,” Lubert said, noting that he is an Elmira resident as well. “What we are finding is that these kids are coming out and trying it, and those who are trying it are loving it and are sticking around.”

Where the program has seen the largest growth has actually been from the younger generation of lacrosse players.

‘Little LAXers,’ one of two relatively new programs aimed to get girls involved in lacrosse at an early age, exposes girls 6 and under to the game.

“They are absolutely adorable, and the reality is that’s where we are growing the most,” he said.

The second of the new programs is the U9 league developed as a result of the increasing popularity in their Little LAXer program, with nowhere for the kids to play but the U11 team.

“We run it like a house league, so they will do half of their one-hour session once a week doing skills and drills and the other half they just do mini games,” he said. “The beautiful thing about these leagues is that our U16 and U19 players get to coach and referee,  so these little kids have role models that are players that come and work with them.”

Lubert says field lacrosse is a great sport for women to get into because of the opportunities available for post-secondary scholarships, as there are more than 100 Division I schools offering lacrosse programs, on top of the Division II and Division III schools.

“With field lacrosse there are amazing opportunities,” he notes.

He’s seen firsthand the places the sport can take women, as both his daughters received lacrosse scholarships, Jocelyn to St. Mary’s College in California and Jessica to Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.

“It is all about speed and finesse, which my girls loved,” he said. “Thinking that it has provided my two girls with these amazing opportunities, I just feel a responsibility to give back to the game.”

Lubert says they hope to eventually add house leagues to each of the age categories so that all interested players have the opportunity to play field lacrosse. That would allow more flexibility for families who are away during parts of the summer, with fewer time commitments.

“We hear, ‘my kid loves the game, she wants to play but we have a cottage’ and they want to spend their weekends there. They don’t want to spend their weekends at games, so we are going to try and offer a house league for them – have a practice one day, a game another, and then have their weekends off,” he explained.

“And then still offer rep for those who want to do it, that want the challenge, or see themselves continuing on with it after at university or wherever.”