Russ Kile never loses his passion. The energy and sheer excitement could be detected in just a brief phone conversation.
The Crestwood girls’ lacrosse head coach understands the situation, and that’s all right with him.
“We are going to take some lumps,” said Kile, who directs the lacrosse program that’s in its first season. “I want to see the girls have fun. That’s the most important part. It’s going to take time. Let’s be honest, most of these girls have never even picked up a lacrosse stick. But you can see the excitement. We’re in a unique situation where we are a first-year program. That’s pretty neat in itself.”
Just one look around the Wyoming Valley Conference, and you can see the growth.
Each division, boys and girls, has seven teams – enough to warrant an automatic berth to the PIAA state bracket.
Numbers seem to be good and on the upswing.
“It’s going to keep growing as long as we can keep growing the interest,” Lake-Lehman boys’ head coach T.J. LaBar said. “It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in just one year. You know the road in the state bracket is tough because teams like Lewisburg and Danville in District 4 have outstanding programs. But it’s great to see how far we’ve come as a league.”
That seems to be the consensus among each coach.
Growth. Positivity. An eye on the future.
And first-year programs throughout the league are proof positive of that theory.
Kile is more than a first-year coach. He’s a proud father as his daughter, Morgan, was one of the people who spearheaded the start of girls’ lacrosse as part of her senior program.
Other programs, you hear similar stories.
Take North Pocono.
“It’s hard being a first-year program, but you take pride when you see little things come together,” head coach Robert Lamanna said. “Lacrosse is a sport where you need good stick skills, and in our case, we have 44 kids that have little or no experience. We have three players that played in the Scranton Youth Lacrosse Association, but we are so young. And the schools in the league understand. They say that they’ve been in our situation and keep telling us to hold our head high. I try my best to play everyone in every game because we want everyone to enjoy the experience.”
There are rumors of the future.
Rumors of how other schools could be joining in the near future.
But for real growth, sustained numbers, Dallas boys’ head coach Rich Cohen points to one detail.
“Youth programs,” he said. “We need to continue to grow our youth programs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see how far we’ve come with the new programs. The automatic berth is great, and it’s nice to have that. Because we are so new, though, we are still struggling at that state level. But we need to grow the sport below in those youth levels. You need to generate that buzz and excitement there, so you can develop those high school programs. Like other feeder programs, you want to see these kids continue to come through the system. We, the coaches and the parents, have to be involved in the entire process.”
The ultimate goal?
“You would love to see every team in the conference field lacrosse teams,” Dallas girls’ head coach Mary Beth Zardus said. “I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but I hope to see that someday. A lot of the programs are self-funded, so that aspect is tough. It’s something that’s new. Lacrosse is new to our area. I played for King’s when I was in college, and it was just starting to break into the college scene. It’s great to see how far we’ve come at the high school level, but we still have a long way to go. We still have to form that sense of identity.”
The Wyoming Seminary girls’ squad and Delaware Valley boys’ team are the two-time defending district champs.