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Lacrosse Takes Off

Pomona-Pitzer women's lacrosse moves from club to varsity status this year as the sport surges in popularity.

Story and photo by Jen Huang '07

The fast-moving – and fast-growing – sport of women’s lacrosse has a new status at Pomona College. The longtime club team is now a varsity sport, and players are preparing for a challenging season come spring.

Athearn field, usually a space for afternoon picnics and impromptu Frisbee games, has recently been allocated as a practice field for this new Pomona-Pitzer varsity team, coached on an interim basis by Michael Wood and captained by seniors Emily Ferrell, Erin Bradley and Melissa Lockhart.

“Long and short!” shouts Bradley, as the players quickly run into position and start their exercises at a recent practice.

The sport combines elements of basketball, hockey and soccer, according to U.S. Lacrosse, the sport’s governing body. Players scoop, catch and throw the ball with a stick called a “crosse” in this game with Native American roots and French Canadian influences.

Lacrosse has been the fastest-growing high-school sport over the last 10 years, and, at the college level, it is one of the fastest-growing sports in the NCAA, according to U.S. Lacrosse. Long centered on the East Coast, the game is gaining fans and players in other regions of the country. “The revolution is now in the West,’’ says Pomona Athletics Director Charles Katsiaficas.

In Claremont, about five years ago, the 5-C women’s lacrosse club was split into two clubs – Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps – because of strong participation on the team and strong play. According to Katsificas, the idea was that the Pomona-Pitzer club team would eventually go varsity, but first the department needed to make sure the team would remain sustainable and competitive after splitting away from the larger 5-C squad.

It did.

Ferrell, one of the senior co-captains, remembers that the team has been trying to achieve varsity status since her freshman year. When the e-mail bearing good news went out to team members this summer, “it was an enormous but great surprise” Ferrell says. The team will be composed of about 25 women, though the final number may vary depending on who comes out for the team in the spring. “Girls who are more serious about playing lacrosse at a D-III college level are considering Pomona among other schools that offer varsity programs,” says Ferrell.

Matches already have been scheduled with other varsity teams such as Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Redlands and Whittier. Katsiaficas notes that the women’s lacrosse is in a state of transition within the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, with some schools elevating lacrosse to varsity, which others such as University of La Verne and Cal Lutheran remain club teams. As for Pomona-Pitzer, “this year will be a transition and learning year for the team,” says Ferrell.

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