Midwest Region: Lacrosse is Back, Though it Varies State to State


Crawford Bundy was named one of 25 high school boys' players to watch across the country.

High school lacrosse is back in the Midwest.

It may look a little different from state to state, and certainly from 2019 to 2021, but the important thing is that players are back on the field and able to compete.

“I don’t really have any words,” MICDS (Mo.) boys’ coach Andy Kay said. “It was so exciting for our guys to be able to strap it on and step out on the field, and then it’s just really not taking anything for granted.”

Of course, there are limitations.

Kay noted his team will not be able to take its usual multi-day trips to play some of the top teams around the country. He also pointed out the various precautions his team still takes, including wearing masks at practice, and the various new rules, like no post-game handshakes.

“Some of it feels a little bit like it’s meant to please the eyes for somebody watching because, geez, you’re lining up in a game, guys are sometimes on top of each other trying to pick up a ground ball,” Kay said. “But I guess we feel like any chance that we can have to mitigate it and keep our guys playing and healthy is worth taking.”

No facial covering could mask the joy of getting back on the field.

MICDS has played two games so far and is off to a 2-0 start.

“Playing our first game, it was a beautiful day,” Kay said. “Just remember a year ago that we were walking off of a big win and then it got shut down, and so I’m at a point where it’s, ‘Who cares? We’re playing.’”

Across the Midwest, the schedule for start and end dates vary, but that isn’t unusual. Indiana and Missouri already have started, for example. Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio have not. That’s pretty customary, as the region’s northernmost states tend to start a bit later.

But the plans for this unique season vary.

In the Buckeye State, for example, the state is “on pace for a full season,” according to Ohio High School Athletic Association senior director of officiating and sport management Beau Rugg. In the Land of Lincoln, the season will not officially begin until April 5, according to Illinois High School Association assistant executive director Matt Troha, and games can start after a team has held seven practices. Troha said there will be a postseason, but its exact shape remains unclear given the sport’s current designation by the Illinois Department of Public Health as high risk.

Certainly, how the states arrived at their present points is quite different.

Ohio, for example, had relatively normal fall and winter seasons despite teams having to postpone games because of quarantines from contact tracing or positive tests within the program. Illinois started winter sports late and is just beginning fall sports like football and girls’ volleyball, meaning the spring will be a mish-mosh of sports. 

Still, kids find ways to adjust, Loyola Academy (Ill.) girls’ coach John Dwyer said.

“The kids that play basketball for us have been coming,” Dwyer said. “They’re just awesome kids. If we practice on a Wednesday night at 8:30, they come to our practice anyway even though they had basketball because they’re just dedicated kids and lacrosse is their No. 1 sport.”

Perhaps the biggest change is a reduction in travel. Top programs like the Culver Military Academy boys and the Loyola Academy girls typically head to the East Coast to take on top talent. Those trips are far less likely to take place in 2021 for many of the Midwest’s standard-bearers.

“It’s a big part of who we are,” Dwyer said. “It’s part of the reason girls come to play for us.”

But again, people adjust.

Dwyer said Loyola will likely still face Eden Prairie (Minn.) and Rockford (Mich.) and otherwise will make up for a relative lack of out-of-state competition by facing top in-state competition like Hinsdale Central and New Trier twice instead of the customary one time.

Perhaps the biggest change has been in mindset. Dwyer saw it immediately as his team got back to practice this summer.

“These kids are so appreciative,” Dwyer said. “They were outside and were playing, and I think that they realize how valuable, how something that they love gets taken away from them, they treasure it that much more. Our kids are never going to take anything for granted again, that’s for sure.”

Kay saw it as his Rams played their first game.

“They played so hard,” Kay said. “I mean it was sloppy, but they truly were playing as if it were the last game that they were ever going to play because many of the seniors the year before did play the last game that they were ever going to play (without knowing it), and now it’s a real thing when you say, ‘Play like it’s the last game.’ We know people that played it like it was their last game because it was.”

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