New lacrosse team plans to make an impact

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Baseball is a proven hit across the area. The same goes for football and basketball.

A group of Southeast Missouri State University students is determined to add lacrosse to the list.

"It's a great sport," said Andrew Mudd, a member of the Southeast lacrosse team, a non-varsity, club squad that plays other colleges. "We're trying to get it off the ground and see how far it can go."

The 18 players who make up the first-year team evidently think it can go pretty far, just based on their enthusiasm and competitiveness during the squad's inaugural game, a 9-8 overtime loss to the University of Missouri-Rolla on March 10. The home contest was played at the school's intramural field behind the Southeast Softball Complex on the corner of Sprigg and Bertling.

"I thought we did well for the first game," Mudd said. "We're coming along pretty well. We've looked a lot better than I expected."

Mudd, a sophomore, and freshman Ken Watkins are primarily responsible for getting the lacrosse team off the ground last semester after others failed in an attempt during the last school year.

"We had more interest than I thought," Mudd said. "I'd say over half of our team played in high school and the others have just kind of picked it up."

Mudd played lacrosse at CBC High School in St. Louis, where the sport has a following on the club level since it is not sponsored by the state high school association. Watkins played in high school in Columbia, Mo.

"I had offers to play at small colleges that have lacrosse, but I found out that there could be a team here so I wanted to come," Watkins said.

Lacrosse is described as a combination of basketball, soccer and hockey, with solid athletic skills and plenty of running required.

"Imagine hockey, but in the air. Instead of the stick on the ground, the stick is in the air," freshman Dustin Sprigg said. "We use a ball and we play on grass, but there are a lot of similar rules to hockey."

Sprigg was born in Missouri but went to high school in Michigan, where he said lacrosse is popular. He's played since his freshman year of high school.

"Everybody played there. It was huge, just as important as hockey or baseball," he said. "I came back to Missouri six months ago to go to Southeast and I came across a flyer about the team in my dorm.

"It's been huge in the east for a long time and it's getting big in the northern part of California. It's hasn't really gotten too big yet down here, but I think it can."

The team will play only a handful of games its first season but could expand the schedule next year. In addition to the opening contest with Missouri-Rolla, the squad will compete in a tournament at Western Illinois University April 6-7 and have one final home game April 20 with St. Louis University.

Admission is free to home games.

With the squad being new, there are no sponsors. The university, which helps with club sports, donated about $1,000, but Mudd said it takes more to run the team. Each player paid dues of $100 and must buy his own equipment (stick, helmet, pads, etc.), which Mudd said ranges from $300 to $400. Special goals also had to be purchased.

"It takes money to play, but we all love the game so it's well worth it," Watkins said. "For our first year, I think things have gone real well. There is a lot of interest and hopefully we can continue to build that."

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