Lacrosse in the United States
In the U.S. lacrosse became a popular game for colleges and high schools in the northeast. In 1877, two New York schools, Manhattan College and New York University played the first US collegiate lacrosse match. By 1882, lacrosse was being played at high schools in New Hampshire and New Jersey.
The sport is governed by the US Amateur Lacrosse Association, which was founded in 1879. The earliest version of the US Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association was started in 1882 to oversee the college game.
Since 1971, The National Collegiate Athletic Association has staged men’s lacrosse championships for Division I schools. John Hopkins, Syracuse and Princeton universities have dominated. Division II championships were played from 1974 to 1981. After a 12-year break, the Division II championships resumed in 1993. NCAA Division III men’s lacrosse championships have been held continuously since 1980.
The Ladies Take Sides
In the late 1800s women began formally playing lacrosse. English girls schools used lacrosse as a springtime sport for their field hockey players. The women’s game began as with eight players per side, but team size was increased to 10 and then 12. Even though Body checks are forbidden, women engage in a tough, physical style of play and they don’t wear helmets like the men do. The Ladies Lacrosse Association was founded in England in 1912.
England brought women’s lacrosse in the United States in the early 1900s. An English physical education instructor, Constance Applebee, started a US women’s lacrosse camp in 1922. The US Women’s Lacrosse Association was born out of this camp in 1931.
Women’s NCAA lacrosse championships for Division I schools began in 1982. Maryland has been the powerhouse of women’s collegiate lacrosse. Division II women’s championships began in 2001. Division III titles have been awarded since 1985.
Today, many clubs organized by high schools, communities and universities play one of three forms of lacrosse:
Men’s Lacrosse is still the most popular version of the sport. It is played by 10-man teams on a grass field. A game consists of 25-minute quarters and four-minute overtime periods in the case of a tie. The ball may be thrown, caught or carried by the stick. It also may be kicked or rolled but never touched by the hands. Body checks and aggressive play are part of the game.
Women’s Lacrosse is played on a smaller grass field by teams of 12. The game has two 25-minute periods. Body checking is illegal, but players may use sticks to cross check an opponent who has the ball.
Box Lacrosse is an indoor version of the game played primarily in Canada. Teams of six players compete on covered hockey rinks. This is by far the roughest version of the sport.
Lacrosse has not strayed far from its Native American roots. It remains a fast, aggressive game that requires tremendous athletic skill and teamwork.
NCAA Lacrosse Champions – Women