Lacrosse takes root quickly at Haddon Township High

Coach Joe Sperduto talks to Haddon Township High's new JV boys' lacrosse team during Tuesday's 10-2 win over Cherry Hill West .
Coach Joe Sperduto talks to Haddon Township High's new JV boys' lacrosse team during Tuesday's 10-2 win over Cherry Hill West . (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 15, 2014

There was a night in December, just before winter break, when Chris Hofmann arrived at Haddon Township High School not knowing what to expect.

Hofmann was the president of the newly formed Haddon Township lacrosse club. And this meeting at the high school would gauge the town's appetite for lacrosse and for starting a high school program.

"To be honest," Hofmann said, "walking through the door at that meeting, I had no idea if we would have 20 kids or 100 kids.

"We ended up having about 200 people show up: about 100 student-athletes and their parents. We ran out of registration forms. We were astounded but also really energized that we knew we had a viable program."

It was an illustration of a common theme around South Jersey over the last several years: Lacrosse is on the rise.

Each year new teams form, each year the competition gets deeper and stronger. Each year more athletes want to play.

This season is Haddon Township's first with high school boys' and girls' lacrosse teams. Each is fielding a JV team and will move to varsity next season.

It's also the first year of boys' and girls' under-13 and under-15 teams in the town. There are more than 100 players combined on all the teams.

Taylor Lanzillo, a sophomore, was one of a handful of boys in the small town who had experience before this season. Lanzillo plays for the South Jersey United club team.

Last year, he and his father started holding informal practices around town. Before long, the practices ballooned into a full-fledged effort to start a program.

"It's just the love of the game," Lanzillo said. "It's really cool to see. For me personally, the game has given so much to me. And it's nice to see all these younger kids follow in the footsteps of something you helped start. It's just a good feeling to be a part of something that's growing like this."

Lanzillo said it makes perfect sense that children flock to lacrosse.

"It incorporates so many sports: basketball, soccer, football," he said. "Of course, once you get out on the field, the game takes skill. But if you have the athletic ability, the sport will come to you - and it's such a fun game."

The girls' teams found their footing just as quickly.

Like most of her teammates, Katie Burns had never picked up a lacrosse stick before joining the team this season.

"Going into the season, a lot of people took notice of us right away," said Burns, a junior who is also a standout in soccer and basketball. "But a lot of people didn't know what to think, because nobody on the team had ever really played before.

"And now it's like, 'Oh, my gosh, look at the lacrosse team. They're actually winning games.'

"People see us around town with our lacrosse sticks, we work hard, we go on team runs, we're learning so much, and we've turned into a big family. And we're starting to get a very positive reaction from the school and the town.

"You sense the popularity growing even more, and that's exciting."

Coach Julie Sullivan's girls' team has a 5-2-1 record in its JV schedule.

Sullivan has two young daughters involved in lacrosse; her older daughter plays for the middle school team.

"I don't think anyone anticipated such a tremendous turnout," Sullivan said. "It's just been a huge success.

"It's really great seeing kids walking around town with their lacrosse sticks. It's a different kind of sport than Haddon Township has seen. And it's nice to offer this as yet another opportunity to the kids in this town."

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