The Ultimate Lacrosse Bucket List
There are certain places and events in the game of lacrosse that all true fans should experience at some point in their lives. Some events serve as a rite of passage into lacrosse super-fandom, some will give you the goose bumps, and others are aesthetically awesome eye pleasers. We’ll start this list with the ultimate trip for any lax fan.
The NCAA Final Four
No event makes hardcore laxers salivate more than the NCAA Final Four. A chance to bask in the glory of close to 100,000 lacrosse fans converging on one lax-hungry city like Baltimore, Philadelphia, or Boston is the dream of a lifetime. With beautiful weather on the east coast during this time of year, the college championship is a dream destination.
The Final Four makes for a great vacation or long weekend since it’s spread out over three days during Memorial Day weekend, capped off by the National Championship Game on Monday. The Division 1 semifinals are played back-to-back on Saturday.
In between the Division 1 championship rounds, the title games for Divisions 2 and 3 are held on Sunday. These lower-profile games are always a thrill to watch, easily filling the void left by the lack of D1 games on Sunday. All the games are held at the same stadium, making for a ridiculous three-day lax-fest.
Despite the fact that the Final Four is held at locations on the east coast every year, the growth and westward expansion of the game means that we are likely to see a west coast Final Four at some point in the not too distant future. The dream of seeing the Final Four played at venues like the Rose Bowl or Qwest Field in Seattle is a soon-to-be reality for many Pacific time zone laxers and vacationers from the east.
As one of the oldest and most prestigious lacrosse programs in the country, Johns Hopkins University has exceptionally deep roots in the game of lacrosse. No field is more sacred to its team than Homewood Field, located on the Baltimore campus of JHU. Opposing players tell stories of getting goosebumps the first time they set foot on Homewood, just thinking about all the legendary players who have shared that field.
Just in recent years alone, players like Kyle Harrison, Paul Rabil, and Jesse Schwartzman have laced up the cleats and put on the baby-blue Blue Jays uniforms to carve out legacies as some of the greatest players to ever take the field at Homewood.
Faces of Lacrosse ...
Team: Boston Cannons/Washington Stealth
College: Johns Hopkins
Height: 6 feet, 3 inches
Getting to know Paul: Paul Rabil has become the face of lacrosse since graduating from Johns Hopkins in 2007 as a 2-time national champion. The 2009 MLL MVP as a member of the Boston Cannons, Rabil is the league's reigning hardest shot winner at 111mph. Paul also plays professionally in the indoor ranks for the NLL champion Washington Stealth.
Since Baltimore is such a Mecca for the game of lacrosse, there are several other ways for lax fans to occupy themselves while there. Baltimore is the home of the lacrosse Hall of Fame, as well as numerous top NCAA and high school programs. The University of Maryland is nearby in College Park, and UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County) is in the city itself. Elite national high school programs like Boy’s Latin and St. Paul’s can give lax fans a glimpse into the future of NCAA lacrosse, as they and many other local schools send countless players every year into the ranks of college lacrosse.
Michigan’s MCLA Massacre
Though some lacrosse purists or traditionalists don’t take college club lacrosse seriously, they would be smart to take a close look at the way Michigan is dismantling the MCLA, and setting a new standard for teams to transition to D1 lacrosse from club ball.
The University of Michigan recently won its third straight MCLA championship, and has lost just one game in the past three seasons combined. With its incredible academics and strong athletic tradition in all sports, UM is able to attract top lacrosse players who may otherwise be able to play at Division 1 schools. Coach John Paul has built a super-power in Ann Arbor, and has his program on the verge of making the unprecedented leap from MCLA club ball to NCAA Division 1 lacrosse.
The Wolverines receive some financial and administrative support from the university, making them unique among MCLA teams. They are the only MCLA squad to have an on-campus, lacrosse-only facility for practice, training, and games. In recent years, they have scrimmaged with a D1 team (we’ll keep them anonymous for their own sake), and annihilated them. While it was just a practice game for the D1 team, it’s a safe bet that pride was on the line and the NCAA boys didn’t want to lose to an “inferior” club team.
If you truly are a lacrosse junkie, do yourself a favor and make the effort to see UM play ball. It’s a beautiful thing to watch them play the game, and odds are you’ll be watching a soon-to-be NCAA powerhouse program. Once the Wolverines go D1, the rest of the country had better be on notice – these guys are a force to be reckoned with.
The Carrier Dome
While Homewood Field may be the most sacred, the Carrier Dome at Syracuse certainly is the most unique field among lax teams. As the only domed stadium in college lacrosse, the Carrier Dome also acts as the home field for numerous other Syracuse sports, including women’s lacrosse, football, and both men’s and women’s basketball.
The Carrier Dome nearly matches the level of lacrosse pedigree held by Homewood. The Gait brothers, Powell brothers, and countless other All-Americans have played indoors in upstate New York. Every kid who grows up playing high school lacrosse in the state of New York dreams of one day playing for the Orange and wearing the legendary number 22 in front of thousands of fans at The Dome.
The tradition of 22 at Syracuse dates back to the 1980s when Gary Gait wore the number and broke almost every school record imaginable, playing alongside his twin brother Paul. The tradition continued on in the ‘90s with Casey Powell (the first of three straight Powell brothers to wear the number) setting records of his own, playing both attack and midfield for the Orange. Casey’s brothers Ryan and Michael went on to break several of Casey’s records, and grow the legend of the number 22 to even greater heights.
Treat Yourself to a Trip!
No matter what team you root for, these destinations are all travel-worthy in their own right. Young fans of the game should be exposed to these events and locales to make sure they know the tradition that their great game holds. Anyone looking for a fun way to spend next Memorial Day weekend should get started on booking a flight or gassing up the car to watch the power teams do battle in the Final Four. And even if you can’t make it to their respective home fields, odds are good that Syracuse or Hopkins will be playing on Memorial Day weekend anyway. Now that you know the game’s greatest sites, hopefully you’re able to check them all off your list before you kick the bucket!