Welcome to Colorado, the lacrosse capital of the West.
—Image courtesy of Scott McCall
It’s been a rough year for Denver sports fans. We took a 35-point trouncing in the “Game That Shall Not Be Named” back in February. We didn’t make it past Round 1 in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. And we didn’t even show up to the NBA playoffs. But the Mile High City clinched one little-known title this past year: the U15 Lacrosse Boys’ National Championship.
The victory shouldn’t be all that surprising. Over the past few years, Colorado has quietly earned an unofficial coronation as the “lacrosse capital of the West.” Consider: The University of Denver is the only lacrosse program outside the East Coast to boast Division I men’s and women’s teams. The University of Colorado Boulder added a D-I women’s squad this spring. And the state has two professional outfits, the Denver Outlaws (outdoor) and the Colorado Mammoth (indoor).
This month, Colorado will cement its status as a lacrosse stronghold when Denver hosts the Federation of International Lacrosse Men’s World Championship. Held once every four years, the tournament will bring together teams from 38 nations, the biggest roster in its history, to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park from July 10 to 19. (The U15 National Championships follow at Aurora Sports Park from July 21 to 23.)
“There are so many good reasons why the championship is coming to Colorado,” says Jamie Munro, CEO of 3D Lacrosse, a Denver-based development program. “We’ve got rabid fans, a great facility, and summertime in Colorado is a real destination.” We’ve also got Munro, who was instrumental in building Denver’s lacrosse scene. A Rhode Island native, Munro played at Brown University under the legendary Dom Starsia, the winningest lacrosse coach in D-I history, then headed DU’s program during its fledgling D-I years. Within one season, the school became a top-20-ranked team. During Munro’s 11-year tenure as head coach, DU won four regular-season conference championships and clinched the team’s first NCAA tournament appearance.
“Lacrosse is one of those sports where as soon as somebody plays, they get hooked,” Munro says. “And then they can’t stop talking about it.” That’s certainly true for him: Munro’s been tapped to do color commentary during the national broadcast of the world championship. If the United States nabs another lacrosse title this month with Munro in the booth, it would be only fitting, as both of these East Coast products have found a second home in Denver.
5280.com Exclusive: Thinking about attending the Federation of International Lacrosse Championships this month? Here are the games you need to know about.
A look at where the next generation of Colorado’s top lacrosse talent is headed.
School: Cherry Creek High School, Class of 2016
Committed To: University of Michigan (D-I)
School: Mountain Vista High School, Class of 2017
Committed To: University of North Carolina (D-I)
School: Kent Denver, Class of 2014
Committed To: Elon University (D-I)
School: Kent Denver, Class of 2014
Committed To: Salisbury University, Maryland (D-III)
School: Centaurus High School, Class of 2015
Committed To: Jackson-ville University (D-I)
Because of its frequent fast breaks and shot clock (for pros and indoor), lacrosse is often referred to as “the fastest sport on two feet.”
Although there are similarities to hockey (sticks, goals, face-offs), lacrosse has designated defense-only and offense-only players who must remain on their sides of the field to avoid an offside penalty.
That constant twist players perform with their lacrosse sticks is called “cradling.” It helps them maintain possession of the ball (it would easily fall out otherwise) and makes quick direction changes possible while keeping check-happy defenders guessing.
Like soccer and hockey, lacrosse goalies get special treatment: With 10- to 12-inch wide heads, their sticks’ pockets are the largest of any on the field. Also, so long as goalies are in the crease (the nine-foot circle around the goal), they can’t be checked.
Get inside the mind of goalie with this interivew with former University of Denver goalie Jamie Faus here.