Delone lacrosse embraces program-building role
The Squires launched the program last spring and will be making the jump to varsity next season
Four years ago, Jarrett Mueller used to sit around with his twin brother, Jake, and friend Cole Myers and talk about how cool it would be to have a lacrosse team at Delone Catholic.
The three friends from Westminster, MD, had just started high school at Delone. They had played lacrosse for years and hoped to start a team at the high school, but Mueller thought it was a long shot.
"It was something I had just kind of come to terms with," Mueller said. "It was tough, but I just never thought we'd be able to find enough kids or money to make it happen."
Three years later, the three friends' dream became reality. Delone Catholic launched its lacrosse program last spring, and along with Dover will be making the jump to varsity in the YAIAA next season.
Although Mueller will have graduated by then, he's still thrilled to have the opportunity to play high school lacrosse. After not having a team in his freshman and sophomore years, just being on the field again has been worth the experience.
"I'm super, super excited that we finally got it," Mueller said. "I golf in the fall, but in the spring I really didn't have anything to do. My brother and I loved lacrosse and just wanted to do something fun."
Delone has 20 players on its roster, eight of whom had experience playing lacrosse before high school. After winning just one game against a JV schedule last season, the Squires are off to a 1-1-1 start in 2016.
While head coach Neil Myers (Cole's father) admitted the team is still developing, he said the Squires are showing progress.
"We're doing pretty good," Myers said. "I was hoping we'd get a few more players this season, but we still have a lot of kids. We’re getting a lot of kids who have never played before, but we're also able to get kids from Maryland who have."
Despite the Squires' strides, it hasn't been easy to create a lacrosse program at Delone, and it's a work in progress. A group of five families from Westminster, including the Myerses and the Muellers, started the push for a team because they wanted their kids to attend Delone Catholic and still have the opportunity to play their favorite sport.
Led by Neil Myers, the group was able to get Delone to send a letter to local private middle schools asking students if they would be interested in playing. While few people at the high school were familiar with the sport, younger students started to become interested.
"It was very strange at Delone, many people didn't have any clue what lacrosse was," Myers said. "But we wanted to get it because our kids wanted it, and we know it's a positive influence on them."
After two years, Delone's athletic association approved the creation of the team. But the association paid only the bus fees and insurance, so Myers and his new team had to raise money to buy uniforms.
Over the past two years, the Squires have held numerous fundraisers (including two bull roasts) that raised close to $8,000 and have paid for jerseys, helmets and goalie equipment. This has left players and their families responsible for buying sticks, pads and cleats.
That equipment costs between $200 and $400 depending on the level of quality, Myers said, and those extra costs have prevented some athletes from playing.
"Lacrosse is not a poor man's sport," Myers said. "Last year we had 25 kids sign up and ended up with 16 kids playing, and this year we went from 32 (signing up) to just 20 now. Starters don't need a $200 stick, so I try to encourage the kids who are just beginning to play to buy used equipment."
There's also the issue of finding a field to play on. While the Squires practice on the football team's practice field, they currently play every game on the road because they don't have an official home field yet.
That will have to change by next season, when the team plays an 18-game varsity schedule, but Myers said he is confident the practice field can be used for games if needed.
"It's not like a cow pasture or anything," he said.
As for what's actually happening on the field, Myers has no complaints. The Squires are still learning, but the head coach said he's been impressed by the experienced players' willingness to step up as leaders.
Senior goalie Dan Coleman, who just started playing the sport last season, said the players who had played lacrosse before high school have shown no resentment toward the team's newcomers. In fact, Coleman said, veterans have been happy to try new roles or help teach aspects of the game.
"If they're upset, they haven't shown that, haven't shown anger or frustration," Coleman said. "Some of the seniors are extremely gifted, and it's beautiful to watch. And I'm still as green as the freshmen are, but I tried to set a good example by stepping up and playing a tough position. Maybe other players will see that and try something new to help the team, too."
Mueller said he doesn't get frustrated with inexperienced players because he knows they're doing their best and "still are pretty good." He added that the experienced players joined the team knowing they would have to be leaders.
While Mueller and Coleman admit it's bittersweet they won't get the chance to play at the varsity level, both of them take pride in being on the first lacrosse team in Delone history. According to them, the team's six seniors have set an example that will help the sport continue to grow at Delone.
"That's been a great feeling for me, to start something brand new," Mueller said. "Forever, we'll be able to say we were on the first lacrosse team at Delone. I think there's a lot of interest starting here."
"We're trend setters," Coleman added. "We're trying to help this thing thrive so that it can really kick off next year."