If you go to the St. Louis Park High School athletics department website, you won’t see boys lacrosse listed. But that doesn’t mean Park isn’t making waves in the sport.
St. Louis Park happens to have a club team, which formed in 2007. The squad isn’t officially affiliated with the —or the Minnesota State High School League, for that matter. Instead, Park is in the Minnesota Boys Scholastic Lacrosse Association.
The Orioles have done quite well in the MBSLA, having won league titles in 2008 and 2010, and finishing second in 2009 and 2011.
“The last five years haven’t been that bad,” coach and St. Louis Park Lacrosse Association founder Kevin Reed said.
Reed got his start in the Hopkins program, where he both played and later coached. While coaching, he noticed a lot of players were joining his team from St. Louis Park, where there was no opportunity to play. Reed said he wanted to see if he could create a hometown team for these kids.
“I felt like I wanted to start something,” he said.
When the association first started, Reed said he didn’t expect more than 15 guys to play. But at the first practice, 50 kids showed up, so Reed started a varsity and a junior varsity. Over the years, the association has grown to include kids all the way down to fifth grade. Reed estimates about 100 youngsters now play lacrosse in St. Louis Park.
“We’re slowly growing, but we’re growing at the lower levels, which is a good sign,” he said.
Many of the St. Louis Park kids who take up lacrosse come over because they've grown bored of another sport. Such was the case with senior captain Max Sherno, who got his start in the Hopkins youth ranks before sliding over to Park when the association started. He was on both championship teams.
“I was one of those kids who sat criss-crossed in the outfield and picked dandelions,” he said of playing baseball when he was younger. “I was kind of bored of that.”
Sherno said the physical nature and fast pace of lacrosse was a welcome change.
“It’s my favorite sport,” he said. “I love it. It’s great.”
Reed said Park's club status also allows him to take kids who might be home schooled, or who are having trouble at school, and give them an opportunity to play. Reed added that he has more flexibility with his schedule in the club ranks, and he knows just who to go to for support—the team’s community of parents.
“They’ve been awesome, very supportive,” Reed said.
But there are challenges to being a club team, too. All scheduling and travel has to be done by the team. And then there is the issue of fields. With only so much green space in St. Louis Park—and school-sanctioned varsity teams often laying claim to it—the boys lacrosse team is generally confined to the field behind the .
“We kind of have a village approach to everything,” Reed said. “On this one field, we’ve got all of our teams going.”
Reed said he knows he can sometimes be a “headache” for the city and school as he tries to look for room, but he said athletic director Andy Ewald is generally supportive. The team might play some games at the high school field this year, and could see even more games at the stadium in coming years when that venue gets a .
“It’s about them being able to run out on their school’s best venue,” Reed said.
If the Orioles did run out on the stadium field, Sherno said fans would see a young team with “lots of potential.”
“We can win (the MBSLA title) again this year,” he said.
Reed agreed with Sherno's assesment of the team's youth and potential, and said his seniors have played a pivotal role in laying a good foundation for the younger players.
Those three seniors—Sherno, Max Arko and Sean Berens—will be headed to college next year, and all three plan on playing lacrosse at the club level there. They all said they’re proud to have been part of the growth of St. Louis Park lacrosse.
Will that growth continue with a move to the state high school league? Reed said he is in no rush, as he’s enjoyed the growth at the club level. But he added that it is something to consider, and he thinks he would have Ewald’s support if the day came.
Sherno said he hopes to see Park move into the state high school league someday, and he is confident the Orioles would do well. But he’s not ready to knock the club level, either.
“We’re having a blast here,” Sherno said.
See the Orioles Take Flight
- What: SLP boys lacrosse vs. Cretin-Derham Hall
- When: Today at 6 p.m.
- Park's Record: 2-2