By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer

The Roaring Fork High School girls’ junior varsity lacrosse program is into its second year, with plans for fielding a varsity team in 2019. The team is composed of nine players from Roaring Fork, with one each from Glenwood Springs, Basalt and Yampah Mountain high schools.

How did the team come to be? Head coach Sarah Klingelheber filled in The Sopris Sun this week.

The current team’s roots can be traced to the Carbondale Middle School’s club about seven years ago, with Joe Lane serving as director. Several have helped to coach the team through the years. As team interest grew, Lane and several parents discussed the need to take girls’ lacrosse to the high school level. “In the Roaring Fork Valley, Aspen was the only school with a girl’s team … Glenwood has had a boys team for about seven years,” Klingelheber said.

Enter Klingelheber herself. The 1998 Colorado girls’ lacrosse Player of the Year out of Cherry Creek, she and her husband, Chris, moved to Carbondale from Missoula, Montana a little over four years ago, when he took a teaching post at Carbondale Middle School.

Klingelheber learned of the middle school team, then went to talk to RFHS Athletic Director Marty Nieslanik and Lane. Together, they pitched the RFHS girls’ lacrosse team idea to the Roaring Fork School Board. “There had been a moratorium on new teams following the recession in 2007-2008,” Klingelheber told The Sopris Sun. “We were the first new team.”

Although the school board approved the formation of a girls’ lacrosse team, it did not appropriate any money for uniforms and related costs. “Our team is a self-funded sport,” Klingelheber continued. “This means our team has to raise or find about $7,000 per year to run our program. I have a list of sponsors that have made this possible thus far and we are truly grateful for their support.” The school board has indicated it will fully fund girls’ lacrosse after a few years.

With the school district’s blessing, Klingelheber started putting out the word to round up players, coaches and support. The coaching staff this year includes Chelsea Robson and Amanda Wynn.

Then and now

According to published reports, lacrosse has its origins in a tribal game played by eastern woodlands Native Americans and by some plains tribes in what is now Canada. Hundreds of Native American men played the ball game with sticks. The game began with the ball being tossed into the air and the two sides rushing to catch it. Because of the large number of players involved, these games generally tended to involve a huge mob of players swarming the ball and slowly moving across the field. Passing the ball was thought of as a trick and it was seen as cowardly to dodge an opponent.

By the 1920s lacrosse, and its cousin field hockey, became popular in private schools on the East Coast. Today, there are 91 women’s lacrosse teams in the NCAA’s Division 1, 57 in Division II and 201 in Division III, plus hundreds of high school, middle school and grade school teams. “It’s really grown,” Klingelheber said.

Lacrosse is a “stick game” with a basket for catching the ball at the end of the stick. Like soccer, hockey and field hockey, the goal is to propel the ball into the net for a score. In lacrosse, the propulsion is accomplished via a throwing motion.

There are 12 players on a side in lacrosse. In high school girls’ JV lacrosse, the games are played in 20-minute halves; in varsity the halves are 25 minutes each.

In high school girls’ lacrosse, contact between offensive and defensive players is not allowed. Players aren’t required to wear a helmet, but are required to wear protective eye-wear and teeth guards.

This year’s team captains are junior Megan Rusby and sophomore Hannah Feder. The other players are: Bella Lee, Brooke Knutson, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Allender, Felina Cruz, Hannah Cole, Kody Tomasso, Lecsi Glenn, Lilly Peery, Lucy Meade and Payton Issel.

Midway through this season, Roaring Fork is 4-0 against other Western Slope teams.

“The girls are doing great,” Klingelheber said.

Published in The Sopris Sun on April 13, 2017