Changes coming for lacrosse teamsSplit impending for South Washington County girls co-op team, possible for boys.
By: Tom Carothers, Woodbury Bulletin
It’s looking more and more like south Washington County may have two girls lacrosse teams and one boys lacrosse team next spring.
According to Park Activities Director Phil Kuemmel, who heads up lacrosse for the Suburban East Conference, a decision will most likely be made by the end of August on whether to split the Park-Woodbury-East Ridge cooperative teams into two boys and two girls teams inside of District 833.
The activities directors from Park, Woodbury and East Ridge recently met with the girls head coaches — Scott Leonard and Kyle Kane — and the boys coach — Rich Limpert — to take a look at the number of lacrosse players at each school and to hear the feelings of the coaches on the subject.
It’s the recommendation of Leonard and Kane to split into two teams — a Park team and a Woodbury-East Ridge cooperative — while Limpert feels strongly that the boys program become a three-school, one-team cooperative.
The activities directors will now meet with the parents and players from the area to hear their feelings on what they would like to do. The activities directors will then give their recommendations to Dr. Randy Zipf, the District 833 Assistant Superintendent, who will then give a recommendation to the school board, which will have the final say.
What Kuemmel said is of the utmost importance was what the area’s lacrosse community feels should happen.
“Randy wants us all to meet with the players and parents and see how they feel about how things are going,” Kuemmel said. “From the parents’ standpoint, on the girls side I think they agree we could go to two teams at this point, but for the boys I think the parents would like the teams to stay together because of the experience factor.”
For the girls program, Leonard wasn’t certain how the parents felt about the situation. However, Limpert said the majority of the boys parents were adamant about keeping the program a three-school cooperative.
“Overwhelmingly, the parents want to stay as a three school co-op for two years,” Limpert said. “They’re putting together a petition and a list of parents who want to stay as a co-op. There’s not one person in our group that doesn’t want to stay together. It’s not even a question.”
Splitting girls: opportunities
Leonard said part of the reason the new high school was built was to create more opportunities for kids to participate in extra-curricular activities. Splitting the girls program does that, he said.
“Overall, for the long-term growth of girls lacrosse in this area, we need to split,” Leonard said. “Short term, it’s going to hurt us and make us a little weaker. This will split up our talent. But, for the long term, the right thing to do is to do it now. Then, hopefully in three years, Woodbury and East Ridge can split and we can have three varsity girls lacrosse teams in this district.”
Last year, the Park-Woodbury girls program had a varsity and a b-squad. The varsity team finished third in the state, while the b-squad was undefeated.
On the girls side, the numbers break down like this: Park will return 25 players from the varsity and b-squad teams, while the Woodbury-East Ridge team would have 24 returning players — 11 Woodbury girls and 13 East Ridge girls. Six returning varsity players would take the field for Park, while nine returning varsity players would play for the cooperative team.
From last year’s varsity roster Park would lose Natalie Arcand and Sophia Bainbridge — who are going to East Ridge — along with Woodbury’s Jackie Hegg, Ciara Wohlford, Ashley Smieja and Camilla Dornfield.
“The numbers are pretty balanced in terms of people with varsity experience returning,” Kuemmel said. “Actually, the Woodbury-East Ridge team would have a little more returning varsity experience than the Park team.”
Another option for the split would be what was done with the area’s girls hockey programs. Next year, East Ridge girls hockey players from Woodbury are playing for Woodbury and East Ridge players inside the current Park boundaries will play for Park.
Either way, Leonard said that according to the Minnesota High School League, the reason for cooperative teams is to help schools that are unable to field a team..
“You have to be able to show that you don’t have enough numbers of participants to field a team on your own,” Leonard said. “We had 58 girls in the program last year. A lot of schools can operate a varsity and JV with 32 players. We really don’t have the ability to say that we need to be together, when the high school league can clearly see that we have enough players for two teams.”
Last year’s B-squad, which went undefeated, had 22 freshman on the team.
“If both teams can go out and get those kind of ninth-graders again, the two teams should be OK,” Leonard said.
Splitting boys: dangerous
Limpert said that boys and girls lacrosse are similar in name alone.
“They have a ball and a net that is the same, but everything else is different — the sticks, the field, the rules are different,” Limpert said. “They’re about as similar as baseball and football. They’re totally different, so they should be addressed as such.
The Park-Woodbury program had three teams last year — a varsity, a junior varsity and a prep team.
From those three teams, 30 returning players will go to Woodbury, 17 will go to East Ridge and nine will go to Park.
However, Limpert believed that maybe only 10 players on the proposed Park-East Ridge cooperative team are potential varsity-caliber players.
That little talent could potentially create a dangerous situation in a fast-paced collision sport.
“You can’t have little guys running around out there,” Limpert said. “If you split the programs you’re going to have eighth-graders and freshman going against seniors from places like White Bear Lake, Stillwater and Mounds View that are big and strong and really, really good.
“I really don’t want to see the, say, four guys going to East Ridge that are truly varsity players mixed in with a bunch of guys that should be on a prep team and just get throttled.”
Limpert felt that a Park-East Ridge cooperative team would struggle mightily next year and possibly into the near future.
“Yeah, the numbers might say that a split is possible, but as Irondale learned when they split a little bit ago they’ve been getting hammered every game for the last few years and it’s really not that fun for their kids,” Limpert said. “We beat them 24-0 last year. That’s like losing 100-0 in football. If you were to put Park and East Ridge together, yeah, those guys might get a varsity spot, but it wouldn’t be fun for them.”
Kuemmel also said that although numbers dictate two possible teams in both genders, experience may not be balanced enough.
“We have to decide on what’s best for the programs,” Kuemmel said. “Is it going to build our program to have two teams out there and have one team getting killed? Or to keep one team together and build that one program.”
If it were up to Limpert, the boys lacrosse team would remain a three-team cooperative for two more years. After two years, he felt it would be safe to split into three separate programs.
“What I see happening that’s best for the kids, is to simply wait two years,” Limpert said. “If we have two years, East Ridge will have seniors and the current youth programs will hit the high schools. All three schools will have feeder systems in two years and steady streams of kids going in.
“Could we split right now? Yes. But, does it make sense in any fashion? No. It doesn’t make sense to do it. Why would we break up a co-op to create another co-op?”
Limpert, who built the current boys lacrosse program from scratch five years ago, said in two years he could help show Park and East Ridge how to start their programs.
“When we do split, I’ll help them separate the teams,” Limpert said. “We’ll help launch Woodbury, Park and East Ridge all separately, so they won’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
Limpert said if the boys program isn’t split, the team would have jerseys similar to those in the NFL’s Pro Bowl. He said the jerseys would be black and white with gold, blue and green mixed in and that the helmets will have the players number on one side, and their school’s mascot on the other side.
“I just want to make sure people aren’t short-sighted and want to do it just to fill a varsity jersey rather than make competitive play for everybody,” Limpert said. “We’re not going to have to cut next year at all, so why split them up. If we’re looking to get competitive play for more kids, you’re not gaining any spots at all by splitting.
“All you do is turn one program that is competitive on its three levels of play into one team that’ll be OK and one that’ll get thumped.”