By Ryan Hassiepen
Most probably don’t even know there is actually a lacrosse team at Ole Miss. But there is. It’s a club team that plays in the MCLA (Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association).
Lacrosse is played with 10 people on the field. Three are middies, three are attackmen, three are defenders, and the last one is the goalie.
Middies are considered players who run both sides of the field, playing both offense and defense. Attackmen are strictly offensive players that do not play any defense. Defenders strictly play defense which is self-explanatory. Neither attackmen nor defenders can cross the middle line of the field unless one of the middies stays back while they cross.
Lacrosse is a very fast-paced game that’s high scoring and action-packed. Two who play club lacrosse at Pennsylvania colleges are Robert Amanto of West Chester University and Ben Fahey of Bloomsburg University. Liam Connolly plays on the Ole Miss Lacrosse team. Lacrosse is a sport that is almost unknown to those in Mississippi.
“Out of 30 kids on the (Ole Miss) club lacrosse team, there are only 3 from Mississippi,” Conolly said.
Something significant would have to change if the Southeastern Conference ever added Division 1 lacrosse. At Ole Miss and in the SEC, the major spring sport is baseball. In the Northeast U.S., the mainspring sport is lacrosse.
The NCAA Lacrosse National Championship is held in Philadelphia, Pa., every year, and in its first year of the PLL (Professional Lacrosse League), the championship weekend was also held in Philadelphia. The idea of having the most significant games in Philadelphia is because the sport is so popular there, as well as in cities like Boston, New York, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. Philadelphia is basically in the middle of all those major cities.
If you’re a fan of lacrosse in any other state, you might just be out of luck. Like in anything else, money needs to be made and is a focal point. That’s why the new Professional Lacrosse League is such an asset to those who know and have played the game, which includes many people in the Northeast.
“As the PLL consists of teams traveling all across the country to play games, the league should really consider having games in states like Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana,” Amanto said as he discussed expanding the sport. “(Those areas) have the lowest rates of kids playing the game. It could really help grow the sport. The (PL) league needs to take advantage of it.”
In return for getting games in the South, it could potentially spark the interest in an Ole Miss booster who might want to donate money to the lacrosse program because they simply watched a game from the PLL.
“Just like in any other sport, they need to make money. That’s the bottom line and that’s the biggest overall issue of the game not evolving,” Fahey said. “It’s been easy up North with investors pouring in money to get programs started.”
Obviously Ole Miss has nice facilities, but the individual lacrosse program has a lack of money. Each player has to pay dues and usually, the dues are not cheap. They can range from $2,000 to $3,000, which definitely adds up.
“It would be nice to try and have the school pay for some of the cost. Maybe supply us with an Ole Miss bus or transportation that would cut the cost down significantly,” Conolly said.
So how does Ole Miss Lacrosse get to the D1 level? The players agreed that finding people who see hope for the sport just as much as they see hope for the Rebels football program is key. Obviously it’s not going to happen overnight, but it all starts with recognition and growth through the Ole Miss club program.
Hopefully, history can change and the warm months of spring could be spent at both Rebels’ Division 1 baseball and lacrosse games. There is hope for that in the future.