Lacrosse isn’t an officially sanctioned high-school sport in Missouri, so the game and its players struggle to gain any notoriety.
But lacrosse stood front and center Wednesday morning at Lee’s Summit North.
Of the 12 seniors recognized during a National Letter of Intent signing ceremony in the Broncos’ gym, six were members of North’s girls’ lacrosse club team. They filled one of the two rows of tables set up in the gym and filled everyone associated with their game with pride.
“It was a very unique situation, and we’re very proud of all these girls and all the hard work they’ve done,” North’s club lacrosse coach, Steve Morgan, said. “It’s only going to continue to go forward from here.”
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Morgan’s daughter, Shay Morgan, was among of the six signees and will head to Oklahoma Baptist University along with teammates Madison Gordon and Kiersten Steinbrugge. Erica Odell signed with Arizona State, Alexis Roe chose Maryville University in St. Louis, and Paige Stahl is going to Midland University in Nebraska.
Six of the eight seniors on the team earned scholarships, which Morgan says illustrates the opportunity many girls might not know they have with lacrosse. While it’s still not as popular in the Midwest as on the East Coast, it is growing here, Morgan said, both on the high school and collegiate level.
“This is the seventh year of the program and we’ve been building every single year,” said Morgan, who has served as North’s head coach for four seasons. “One of the things as a coaching staff we really stress is you have an opportunity, if you have a certain skill set,” to get some scholarship money.
Morgan didn’t think that was possible when his daughter first took up lacrosse, but, when she got to high school, he “could see the writing on the wall.” Thanks to Title IX and its requirement of equal scholarships for men’s and women’s athletics, more colleges, especially in the Midwest, have started lacrosse programs.
“That opened the door for all the colleges to have lacrosse programs and have money available for females,” Morgan said. “We double softball, we double soccer, we double volleyball with regard to the amount of kids playing the sport that are going to get paid to play at the college level.”
Oklahoma Baptist started its program in 2013 and recruits heavily in Missouri, because there aren’t many high school players in Oklahoma. The NCAA Division II program in Shawnee, Okla., already had two former Broncos on its roster, which Coach Morgan said helped Bison coach Jordan Beech lure his daughter, Gordon and Steinbrugge.
“It’s not really that big in Oklahoma, so he’s really put in a lot of effort in this region,” Coach Morgan said. “He’s just worked really well in this region and concentrated on girls that he can identify that can play at the Division II level.”
Odell — who also plays softball, basketball and runs track — said she had no idea when she started playing lacrosse in the sixth grade that it could lead to a Division-I scholarship. A five-time varsity letter winner, Odell wanted to go to Arizona State after attending a camp there with a friend.
“I just loved the campus and loved the weather and all the girls that were on the team already,” Odell said.
Odell also loved sharing Wednesday with her fellow seniors and showing how far the sport has progressed in Lee’s Summit.
“It’s kind of like the underdogs coming in,” Odell said. “It’s great that there’s a whole bunch of new girls just stepping in and taking the challenge to play it and be good.”