Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn.
NXT Sports’ 2018 Rippin’ at the Ranch lacrosse showcase, held at Premier Sports Campus on June 23-24, taught me two things.
It taught me that shaved ice, when consumed in heat that “feels like 102 degrees” according to my phone, has divine powers. After four and a half hours in the thick of the Lakewood Ranch sunshine, one spoonful of the sweet treat sent my soul to a different plane. I’m pretty sure I floated to my car afterward.
The second thing it taught me? That area lacrosse is just about as hot as the aforementioned heat.
Sammy Stoltz, the girls lacrosse coach at Lakewood Ranch High and the Lakewood Ranch-based Monsters Lacrosse travel team, said that at last year’s showcase, the Monsters registered one high school girls team with one substitute player, and one middle school team with zero subs. In other words, the area hosts one of the state's top events, but the athletes were from everywhere but here.
This year, the organization registered two full high school rosters and a full middle school roster. That type of growth doesn’t happen without word of lacrosse’s benefits getting to the community, and Stoltz knows exactly how that occurred.
“Getting into the high schools has been the biggest thing,” Stoltz said. “Lakewood (Ranch) has it. Manatee has it. It’s drawing more people into play. We have people moving here from the north who are getting their kids into it. For Monsters in particular, we have every area high school represented.”
Lakewood Ranch High introduced the sport this season, and even though the results weren’t what Stoltz hopes they’ll be in the future (3-10), simply showing kids that lacrosse is something they can play at a public school is a big deal.
The Mustangs are also proving the sport can help kids beyond that level. Audrey Mahoney, who played for Lakewood Ranch and graduated in May, received a scholarship from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. Six more Mustangs are currently in talks with colleges, Stoltz said.
“I’m not surprised,” Stoltz said. “Lacrosse is an awesome sport. It’s a whole different culture. When people get into it and start to play, they jump on board pretty quickly. I figured it would grow (in the area), everyone did. Every week, I check my email and there are people asking me what they can do to prepare their seventh grader for high school tryouts in two years. It’s really cool.”
Rippin’ at the Ranch itself helps, too. The coed showcase had 48 teams from across the state participate. When an event of that size takes place, the community notices.
Parents, don’t be surprised if your kids ask to play lacrosse in the coming years. When they do, remember: If you find yourself at an all-day tournament in the summer, dragging your things from Field One to Field Three, sweating like a guilty man in a police interrogation, shell out a few bucks for a shaved ice. It’ll save your life.