Interest in girls lacrosse continues to grow

5/4/2017 | Chris Miracle

Category: May 2017

Reminder Publications photos by Chris Maza

Seventeen years and counting.

Founded in 2000, the Western Massachusetts Girls Lacrosse League is here to stay, and poised for the future development of youth lacrosse.

Starting out with a lone team with a roster of fifth through eighth graders, the blossoming league split into two teams in 2003 with one squad of fifth and sixth, and another of seventh and eighth.  Also in that same year, Agawam coach Lynn Geiger formed a Bantam team for third and fourth graders.

The number of teams has increased through the years. Present day, the league consists of two senior (seventh and eighth grade) two junior (fifth and sixth grade) and two Bantam (third and fourth grade) teams.

“All of those teams have full rosters. We were close to having a third team in each age group. Also this year we started a Mites program for first and second graders. It is a weekly instruction practice that is still growing. Our entire program has roughly 120 girls and approximately 16 coaches and assistants. We also have plenty of parents always pitching in,” current senior team coach Jamison Gottier said.

“The league is considered ‘noncompetitive’ and instructional, to ready the players for the next level. Ultimately high school. There are no official scores or stats kept. However, if you watch any game you’d never tell. These young ladies bring it,” Gottier said. “There is a ton of talent out there. These girls train and play hard. Those goggles aren’t just for looks.”

Many games are double-digit scores, and although no score is recorded, according to Gottier, the players, coaches and parents are counting every goal.

The season starts with sign-ups in January, in addition to an optional extra preseason program at Stick Time Sports in Agawam that starts in February.

“We get on the field as soon as the snow is gone about mid-March. Our games begin right after April vacation and run through early June. Most teams have about 12 games plus a couple of all-day tournaments we play in,” Gottier said.

The league recently developed a system of qualifying teams as developed or emerging.

“We try to play our games against the same class of team. No one likes blowing out anybody and nobody wants to get blown out. You learn very little when that happens. Some of our developed and more established towns like Agawam are Wilbraham, Westfield and Longmeadow. There are quite a few actually. We have new towns joining the league every year. Ellie Wilson just launched a program in Holyoke last season with only one team,” Gottier said. “From a coach’s point of view it’s rewarding work. Almost all of the coaches have kids in the program. A lot of our coaches have more than one child in the program, so they have been in it for years. This is my fourth year coaching my oldest, but I’ll drop back when she ages out and coach my youngest daughter.” Gottier said.

Gottier estimated that each coach probably puts in 20-plus hours a week during the actual season strictly as a volunteer.

“I myself find it very rewarding working with these young ladies. They learn so much more than just the sport of lacrosse. It’s about team building, communication, work ethic ....we have a lot of fun too. Water balloon fights and ice cream, and friendships that last forever. It’s so rewarding to see a first- year player do something awesome on the field, win a ground ball or score her first goal. There is nothing like watching team mates rally for each other.”

Gottier, who played lacrosse in Somers, CT, in the mid-1980s, coaches alongside Jess Lariviere, who played for Agawam High School in the 1990s. Early founding coaches include Lynn Gieger and Jerry Sibilia.

“Back in 2000, lacrosse was really gaining popularity and so many Connecticut teams along with Longmeadow had great programs. It was definitely started for the development of the high school squad,” Gottier said. “If you think about it, a freshman in high school might already been playing lacrosse in Agawam for six  years.”

According to Gottier, there has been an increase of players who had previously played other sports, tried lacrosse and stick with their new sport. The Agawam High School roster is peppered with girls from the program. Some of their top players started in this program including Izzy Liquori, Taylor DeGeorge, Nina Bruno, Emily Oliver and Hailey Lyne.

Teams from all over Western Massachusetts as well as Connecticut towns like Suffield, South Windsor and Somers take part in the league games. Most local games are at high schools or town sports complexes.

One point noted by Gottier was the league is a recreation program.

“We essentially pay to play and strive for equal playing time. There are no cuts, so the girls who really put in the work and study the game have a leg up when they have to ‘make’ the high school team,” Gottier said.

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