Home at last!

April 13, 2013

The development of lacrosse as a high school sport at Dallas, in particular, and the Wyoming Valley, in general, continues.

When Dallas teams swept the North Pocono boys and Pittston Area girls on April 4, it marked the programs’ debut at on-campus fields. The teams play on a new field adjacent to the high school.

This is a big season for the sport’s growth throughout the area, as well.

Dallas athletic director Nancy Roberts is the president of the Wyoming Valley Conference Lacrosse League, which is in its first season. And, for the first time, District 2’s champions will proceed directly into the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament rather than having to try to play their way in through a subregional game with District 4 teams.

Lake-Lehman, Delaware Valley and Crestwood join Dallas in both the boys and girls leagues. Tunkhannock, North Pocono and Scranton Prep also have boys teams while Pittston Area, Coughlin and Wyoming Seminary have girls teams.

The sport is clearly thriving at Dallas.

The Mountaineers have 37 boys and 27 girls on their teams, allowing for junior varsity games when facing other programs with similar numbers. Dallas has one of two unbeaten girls teams, joining Wyoming Seminary, while the boys are off to a 2-1 start in league play.

Dallas High School lacrosse traces its roots back to the Back Mountain Bandits club team, which evolved into a Dallas-only club team as more high schools became involved in the sport. The school district took over responsibility, making it an official PIAA-sanctioned team with full compliance to eligibility, academic and physical requirements. The latest step is bringing the team onto campus.

“We were interested in it, but we didn’t have the space until the new high school was built,” said Roberts, who credits a strong parents club for getting the program moving before the school was involved. “Now, we have the extra field.

“It’s something we agreed to progress with each year. We pay for some things, but not all things. There are still some things the booster club has to do.”

Boys coach Rich Cohen has been involved since the beginning with the Back Mountain Bandits starting U-19 and U-15 club teams.

Cohen said his team is led by three players who received recognition on the Central Susquehanna League all-stars last year when Dallas played in that league.

George Pfeiffer was a two-time, first-team goalie. Ray Schultz, a defender, and Casey McAndrew, a midfielder, each received honorable mention.

They helped Dallas roll over North Pocono, 15-1, in the home debut.

The girls, coached by Mary Beth Zardus, have defeated both Crestwood and Pittston Area.

The girls team, which beat Pittston Area, 14-5 in the home opener, has four seniors - Madeline Mulhern, Cara Pricher, Deidre DeLuca and Evonna Ackourey - who received all-star recognition in their previous league.

With dozens of players involved in forming two winning teams, lacrosse is establishing its place in the Dallas athletic program after years of dedicated effort by those excited about the sport’s growth.

“They did sell me on it,” Roberts said of the original decision to add the sport to those that the school district sponsors. “The kids pushed it. The boys and girls teams and the boys and girls coaches really didn’t let it drop.

“With the numbers we had in it, we knew it was the right thing to do.”