From the Sideline

Column: East Wake, Knightdale among Wake County high schools fielding interest in girls lacrosse

September 26, 2013 

It took time for plenty of Triangle-area schools to form girls’ lacrosse teams since the North Carolina High School Athletic Association sanctioned the sport in 2009.

For those schools – like Heritage, Holly Springs, Leesville Road and Millbrook – boys’ lacrosse came first, before girls took an interest in the sport. But at East Wake and Knightdale, schools that do not offer lacrosse for either gender, the sport may begin with the girls.

Like every other high school in the Wake County system that does not offer girls’ lacrosse, the eastern Wake 4A schools were required this year to poll female students on their interest in the sport.

“The main push is because of the Title IX stuff going on in Wake County, working to offer more women’s sports in Wake County,” Knightdale High School Athletics Director Guy Blough said.

He referred to the 2010 complaint the National Women’s Law Center filed against Wake Schools and 11 other school systems nationwide, alleging they did not offer girls equal opportunities as boys regarding interscholastic sports. That, the center charged, left the school systems in violation of a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education activities.

As part of a settlement agreement, the school system agreed to look into expanding athletic options for female students. Under the terms of the settlement, Wake made no admission of discrimination and federal officials made no findings of fault.

Blough explained it made most sense to solicit interest for girls’ lacrosse, rather than another sport.

“It’s (a sport) that’s already funded by the county because they have the coaching positions established, and about half the schools in Wake County already have girls’ lacrosse,” he said.

Only a few prospective girls’ lacrosse players attended an interest meeting at Knightdale at the start of the current school year. Blough said that wasn’t enough for the school to pursue the sport in the coming spring, even at an introductory level.

“We’ll reassess and definitely look at it again next year based on the interest level we receive next fall and decide what we want to do,” Blough said.

Like soccer, about 20 players would be needed to start a team. East Wake came close to that mark, with 15 students attending its girls’ lacrosse interest meeting.

Athletics Director Jon Hasbrouck said only one of those interested has any experience in the sport. That means East Wake likely will not have a competitive team by the spring, but may have something organized by that point.

“Now we have to go back and have another meeting in the wintertime and see where we go from there,” Hasbrouck said. “We haven’t looked at costs, fields – could it be a club (sport) the first year or two?

“We’re looking for a little more direction and have other people we need to talk to. We’re continuing to look into it, because we had interest shown.”

East Wake and Knightdale each offer 11 NCHSAA-sanctioned sports for both boys and girls. The schools offer one more sport for girls than for boys if you count gymnastics, which is not sanctioned. That means if boys’ lacrosse is added first in hopes of attracting more girls to the sport – following the model of other area schools – there would be an even amount of sports per gender.

Boys’ lacrosse is growing in North Carolina, and it is clear girls lacrosse is following suit. It appears things will not play out in that order for the local schools, however, due to the Title IX settlement.

“I was at Southeast Raleigh when the boys’ program started and the girls’ followed, and the girls’ program wasn’t too far behind,” Hasbrouck said. “But right now, what they are looking at is the women’s program to start.”

From 2009 through the spring 2013 season, the number of NCHSAA boys’ lacrosse teams statewide shot from 58 to 81, an increase of nearly 40 percent. For girls, the team count rose from 39 in 2009 to 58 in 2013, an increase of almost 49 percent.

Just one NCHSAA school, Topsail, had a girls’ lacrosse team but no boys’ team in 2013. On Wednesday, the NCHSAA released a first draft of lacrosse conferences that indicates Topsail intends to form a boys’ team in the spring of 2014.

If the draft of conferences becomes final, Wake Forest would be the only school on the list to field a girls’ lacrosse team without having a boys’ team for the spring season.

Staff writers J. Mike Blake and T. Keung Hui contributed.

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