Just because lacrosse isn’t a WIAA-sanctioned sport, don’t tell the Green Bay Notre Dame Tritons that their recent state championship means any less. It might even mean more.
The Tritons took home their second consecutive Division 2 state championship June 8 with an 11-4 victory over Sauk Prairie. It was also the second straight year they’ve beaten the Eagles to win the championship.
When Notre Dame coach Bob Vickman was a senior in high school, he helped start a team at Oshkosh North. So when he was asked to do the same four years ago at Notre Dame, it was a natural thing to do.
“I was a first-year teacher and our associate principal asked if I wanted to help out with the lacrosse team as an administrator, be in charge of finances and scheduling games,” Vickman said. “It was going to be a huge time commitment and they thought that it would be too much for a coach to do all of those things, plus coach. When they couldn’t find anyone, the job just kind of fell to me.”
It’s challenging enough to win a state championship, but even tougher with no financial support from a school district or the WIAA. Vickman receives a stipend for coaching, but some of that goes to his assistant coaches and for needed equipment. Lacrosse is recognized as a varsity sport at the school, so athletes can letter with a successful season.
It’s only a matter of time before lacrosse will be recognized by the WIAA. It’s a huge hit in the Madison and Milwaukee area and is the fastest-growing high school sport in the country. It originated on the East Coast, but is rapidly spreading to the Midwest. Vickman sees it being a sanctioned sport in two years. There currently are about 35 varsity teams in the state.
“The kids wanted to have open gyms way back in October and November of last year,” Vickman said. “They were coming in at six in the morning to get ready for the season. I think because it’s not a WIAA sport, it just doesn’t get some of the recognition like other sports. Our kids work just as hard as athletes in other sports, maybe harder. It’s a testament to the programs in the Green Bay area and how successful they are. Madison and Milwaukee have youth programs in place, whereas we don’t.”
There are several factors why it’s not a recognized sport by the WIAA, but lacrosse’s success and growth might actually contribute to its downfall.
“It might be a concern from the WIAA that if you make lacrosse mainstream, it might take away from some of the other more popular sports,” Vickman said. “But lacrosse is not going away, it’s only getting more popular.”
Based on the fact the Tritons baseball team made it to the state championship game this season, there seems to be plenty of athletes to go around, at least at Notre Dame.
The lacrosse team had 38 players on the varsity and junior varsity squads this past season.
Notre Dame plays in the Bay Valley Conference with Bay Port, Green Bay Southwest, Green Bay Metro and De Pere. It finished with a 12-3 overall record, culminating with its state championship.
“This year’s team had a good mix of seniors and lower classmen,” Vickman added. “In 2012, we were more of an offensive team, where this year we were forced to play more defensive. Amongst all the teams in the state, we were fourth in goals allowed per game at just below five. I think we have the makeup to make another run next year.”
Consistency and hard work were the keys to Notre Dame’s success this year. A perfect example of that was exhibited from senior captain Johnnie Girard. Girard played on Team Wisconsin last summer and tore his ACL. He worked all the way back and seven months later was playing in a varsity game and was one of Notre Dame’s top players.