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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

Regular to Post Season and Beyond: This is Rutherford Lacrosse

by Krista Vellis

Boys 5/6th grade Jerry Graff Memorial tournament winners

Teams in the Rutherford Lacrosse Association logged many on-field victories this season, but an equally important occasion happened when lacrosse players and parents voiced their desire for the opportunity to continue to play the sport they love in high school.

The boys’ 3rd/4th grade team and 5th/6th grade teams each finished the season by winning a major tournament while the 7th/8th grade team finished well over .500

The 7/8 girls had a fantastic season finishing above .500 and the 3rd/4th and 5th/6th grade teams had strong seasons that predict they will be formidable opponents in coming years.

Even though the regular season has ended, lacrosse will be a big part of summer in Rutherford.

New and current female lacrosse players in grades 5th- 8th can take part in a 6 week summer session at Tryon Field and a similar program for boys will most likely be in held Nutley.

Rutherford Lacrosse Association president Chris Griffin sat down with This Is Rutherford to fill us in on the details about the season and what the future may hold.

3rd/4th grade girls lacrosse

TIR: Over 100 people showed up at Monday’s June 3rd Board of Education meeting. Students ages 5 to 12 wore their uniforms to show their support for the proposal of forming a Cooperative High School Team between Lyndhurst and Rutherford. This proposal would give our current 7th/8th grade students the opportunity to continue playing lacrosse as early as next year. Could you tell me why this is so important?

GF: It is important for the growth of the game in town. Right now we have about 15 8th grade boys who will not be able to play in RHS next year. They have a tremendous amount of pride in their town and would love to show it on the lacrosse fields in NJ. The only option they have is to play summer ball with a club team. The players have bonded with each other and nothing would be better than to watch that bond develop further in HS. It would current high school students the chance to play. One of the main delays in getting a program in the high school is numbers. We completely understand this point. We wouldn’t want to start a lacrosse program and then cancel it due to lack of athletes. We strongly believe a co-op gets us the numbers we need now and in the short-term future. It’s difficult to motivate kids to play lacrosse, if there is no future in the sport beyond 8th grade.

TIR: What was Superintendent Hurley’s response at the last Board of Education Meeting?

GF: In the last Board of Education meeting, Mr. Hurley said it was not a matter of if but when. That is a big step for us as it is now on record. He went over the landscape and what needs to happen in order to start a co-op program. We are hoping by the next meeting to have a detailed plan of what needs to happen in order to get both a girls’ and boys’ program in Rutherford High School.

It would be a shame to lose this thriving program. Not only for our town, for our athletes!

TIR: When does lacrosse start up again?

GF: For the older girls, we are running a six week summer session at Tryon Field from 7:00 to 8:30 every Wednesday night. The recreation department was great in securing the field for us.

TIR: Why are you having a summer program?

GF: The primary focus of the summer program is to provide our girls with playing time in which they can refine their skills and practice passes and shots they may be intimidated to try in a game situation. Whether it’s a trick shot or the behind the back pass that can fake out a defender, this summer league will give our players the opportunity to try new things against players that vary in age, giving them the confidence to incorporate those skills next season’s games.

7th/8th grade lacrosse team at Met Life Stadium for the Trilogy tournament

TIR: Can anyone play in the summer program?

GF: We are opening it up to current lacrosse players in grades 5th- 8th. Girls who have not played before can participate, but they need to sign up with US Lacrosse in order to be covered by insurance. The sign up fee for US lacrosse is $25 and provides insurance for a full year. If interested, please feel free to contact us via our website or Facebook.

TIR: Will there be a boys’ summer lacrosse program?

GF: The boys will most likely be traveling to Nutley as they offer a similar program for boys on Wednesday nights. Details will follow soon.

TIR: I know we’ve been talking a lot about the summer, but I heard the boys are coming off of an amazing season.

GF: I am so proud of how far our boys have come. Both the 3rd/4th grade team and 5th/6th grade teams ended the season by winning the Jerry Graff Memorial Tournament. This event features 4 to 8 teams per division with the winner of each division facing each other at the end. The boys played 4 games within 5 hours and both teams came away undefeated and winning the championship. We played a number of well-established teams. Winning the tournament demonstrates the growth the program has experienced over the last few years.

The 7th/8th grade boys, with a number of first year players on the team, missed the championship round by one goal, which was the result of having a tie in the first game. The team played hard all season and finished well over .500 (8-3-1). Three players made the league All Star Team.

TIR: Overall, how was the girls’ lacrosse season?

GF: All four girls’ teams had a positive season. We have two equally balanced 5th/6th teams, which bodes well for the future of the lacrosse in town. With two to three years of more experience, these girls will be a formidable team. The 7/8 girls had a fantastic season finishing above 500. With the majority of the girls being first year players, this is a tremendous accomplishment. They even got the chance to show off their skills in the Trilogy tournament at MET LIFE stadium.

The growth of the girls’ program still amazes me. A few years ago, there were so few members, that all the girls, no matter their age, practiced together. Now we have four teams in three different age brackets.

TIR: In your opinion, would you say Rutherford is holding its own with the surrounding towns?

GF: As demonstrated by this year’s record and the results of the Jerry Graff event, I think the club is doing great. Neighboring towns such as Nutley and Lyndhurst have teams and we have gone back and forth in terms of victories. Both the ¾ and 5/6 teams lost earlier in the year to Lyndhurst and we were able to turn the results around later in the season. Many of teams we face are more established and in the older division the difference is more pronounced, but our 7/8 boys and girls have played hard and made major advances in a short time.

TIR: It seems that the Rutherford lacrosse program is more than a sports program. They are a family. How do you foster this type of bond?

GF: I am not sure how to answer this one, but I will try. I think it is a combination of several things. The first one being the sport is new to the town and it puts everyone in the same place skill wise. I believe that evens the playing field for everyone. Everyone in town has been supportive of the program. We have players giving it their all on the field and parents volunteering to help wherever they’re needed. And last but not least, we have amazing coaches who donate their time and expertise. We have one coach who has no vested interest in the program other than her desire to give back to the game. We also have a father-son team that volunteer because they want to see in the program grow. We even have an older brother of one of our players who volunteered around his school and lacrosse commitments. This speaks to the passion of lacrosse players and their desire to give back to the game.

I notice that most lacrosse players have a desire to give back to the game as a way to say thank you to the game that has given them so much. During the tournament, a player from another team came over and introduced himself to the team, explaining he’d be moving to Rutherford later this year. Our players welcomed him with open arms. By the next game of the tournament, our players were on the sidelines with him watching games together.

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