By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 3/18/08
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) made a surprise announcement this week that state tournaments will be held next year for both boys’ and girls’ lacrosse.
Brad Cashman, PIAA executive director, said Tuesday that the Board of Directors voted 22-8 in favor of beginning the tourneys two years earlier than had originally been anticipated.
The PIAA has had jurisdiction of girls’ lacrosse, but had not held a state tournament because there were not enough teams spread throughout the district. Next year boys’ lacrosse will become jurisdiction of the PIAA; currently all boys’ teams in southeastern Pennsylvania are under jurisdiction of the Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association (EPSLA).
“We decided that down the road we’d have state playoffs,” Cashman said of the original plan. “We felt that would give us a couple years to get our feet on the ground and establish ourselves, particularly for (boys’ lacrosse) referees.
“But the board wanted to get started sooner than later.”
The changes next year are significant, Cashman said.
Aside from having state tournaments and taking over jurisdiction of the EPSLA, the PIAA is assimilating the Catholic League. These teams will comprise District 12 for boys’ and girls’ lacrosse. Currently no schools in the Public League have boys’ or girls’ teams.
The EPSLA – which consists of all District 1 schools as well as the Catholic League, the Inter-Ac League and all independents – has been holding its own tournament for the Philadelphia-area boys’ championship. That winner has been meeting the western Pennsylvania winner for the Keystone title.
District 1 has been holding a girls’ tournament, and the winner has been generally considered the state champion. Catholic League girls’ teams have been in their own league tourney, which has been dominated in the 2000s by power Archbishop Carroll.
Last year’s boys’ state champion was Downingtown East. Cougars coach Tom Slate believes a state tournament is good for all involved.
“It’s good to know that,” he said. “I think at the last coaches meeting we were all wondering what was going to happen – didn’t know if now or five years. It’s good to know after this year we’ll have a state championship.
“You have to have something to play for.”
Cashman said that there are currently 131 girls’ teams and 125 boys’ teams registered in the state. He listed District 1 as by far the largest for girls (67) and boys (56) and predicted that District 1, 12, 3 and 7 would hold their own tourneys and that schools in Districts 2, 4, and 11, where there are fewer than 10 teams, would be combined with other districts.
Cashman also said there would be one classification until the number of boys’ or girls’ teams reached 200. The PIAA will base the amount of qualifiers for the tournament on the number of teams in each district.
“None of us knew how this would work with so many things happening,” said La Salle coach Bill Leahy, who has guided his Explorers to 13 of the past 15 Catholic League crowns and a state title in 2004. “The Catholic League entering the PIAA is one whole transition. Then you have lacrosse joining.
“It just takes time to see how the puzzle fits together. That (the state tournament) was a big announcement. That was like putting a chunk of it in the middle. It seems it will work out nicely, like basketball or any other sport.”
“Obviously, we like to have everyone in the state compete for a title because it’s cool to say you won it without a doubt,” added La Salle senior midfielder and team captain Conrad Ridgway. “I think before when we thought there wasn’t going to be a state championship it was upsetting, but we still have this tournament to look forward to and we all strive for this every year.”
Cashman said the PIAA has to work quickly to prepare for taking jurisdiction of the boys’ teams and holding a state tourney in the same year. The biggest concern is certifying referees and having them properly trained in PIAA rules and regulations.
Currently there are chapters for girls’ lacrosse in the major cities. Cashman noted that boys’ chapters will quickly be formed around the state.
“We started to register the referees after first of the year and people have been taking their (certification) tests,” Cashman said. “They will be certified as PIAA officials as of July 1.”
Cashman said he was well aware of the amazing growth of lacrosse throughout the state and the country. Just last week U.S. Lacrosse reported that participation in scholastic lacrosse has doubled in just the last seven years.
“The sport is growing and growing and more and more teams and are building lacrosse programs,” Cashman said. “Everything we see is that lacrosse and bowling are the two emerging sports in Pennsylvania at the high school level.”