Westosha Central High School freshman Ava Viirre (right), who plays for the Kenosha Storm, eludes a player from USM.

Lacrosse enthusiasm grows

By Jason Arndt
Staff Writer

At first glance, when anyone watches Lacrosse players roam the field, two words come to mind.

Those two words: Fast-paced.

Lacrosse is a contact sport with 10 players on each team who use sticks to carry, throw, catch and shoot the ball at the opponents’ goal.

The fast-paced playing style certainly attracted Ava Viirre, of Salem, to the sport about a year ago.

Ava’s mother, Amber, remembered when her daughter first became interested in playing.

“Ava’s brother used to play and she always liked how fast paced it was,” said Amber. “Then we finally found a team in Kenosha, the Kenosha Raptors.”

Ava, meanwhile, said the sport satisfied her craving for an active sport.

Before she discovered lacrosse, Ava mostly played basketball, a sport she participates in as a Westosha Central High School freshman.

“I was really into fast paced sports and I am always running and staying active, so I thought it was a really cool sport to play,” she said.

Finding a girls team, however, took time until she and her mother discovered the Kenosha Raptors program.

The Kenosha Raptors Lacrosse Club was formed in 2011 and fields multiple teams and serves all ages.

Following Ava’s first season with the Raptors, she joined Black Lax, a Milwaukee-based travel team that practices at Marquette.

Ava later joined the Kenosha Storm, a Kenosha Unified School District co-op program, which allows students from Westosha Central.

The Kenosha Storm plays in the Classic-8 Conference under governing body Wisconsin Lacrosse Federation and is not a WIAA-sanctioned sport.

Ava said she has experienced many highlights in her first year with the Kenosha Storm.

“I am scoring once or twice a game, sometimes more, and I have started most of the games,” she said, adding she considers playing most of the minutes as a freshman is a huge accomplishment.

“It has definitely been a lot of fun and I have bonded with a lot of the girls.”

Her teammates mostly come from Kenosha Indian Trail, where the Storm practices, and Tremper.

The sport, meanwhile, is not limited to Kenosha County.

According to US Lacrosse, the state has seen the highest percentage of growth in youth and high school participation between 2002 and 2014.

In 2015, Mike Shor launched Elks Lacrosse Club, which was targeted for area youth.

Beyond youth age

Attackman Logan Mortlock, a freshman from Delavan, attempts to avoid a Marquette defenseman during a recent game with the Elkhorn team.

Because Elks Lacrosse Club had been intended for youth, players who entered high school could not continue to play until 2018, when it formed a separate high school club.

President Nancy DuPont, of the Elks Lacrosse Club Board of Directors, said the new club looked to keep players active.

“We started the high school club in 2018 to make sure the players that aged out of the Elkhorn youth program could continue to play lacrosse at the high school level,” DuPont said. “There weren’t any high school-aged clubs in Walworth County.”

This year, the program played its first high school schedule, competing in the Classic-8 Conference as a junior varsity team.

While it is an Elkhorn-based club, DuPont said the high school team welcomes players from neighboring communities, like Delavan-Darien.

“Players do not need to attend Elkhorn Area High School. Lacrosse is not recognized by the WIAA, so we operate as a community-based club,” she said. “Players from surrounding communities are welcome to participate.”

“They just need to make sure there isn’t another club closer to them geographically. Currently, our players attend either Elkhorn or Delavan-Darien High School.”

In its first year of play under a junior varsity schedule, DuPont reports the team has exceeded expectations, noting it has a 6-3 record as of May 20.

“Only six players had previous lacrosse experience,” she said. “The majority are new to the sport, but picked up the skills so quickly. They are already competitive with other JV teams which is a result of all the work they have put in.”

Although the Elks high school program is not recognized by the WIAA, DuPont notes the sport has grown in interest, and has even garnered support from the Elkhorn Area School District.

“The Elkhorn school district has been so supportive and helpful in getting this program up and running, through publicity and the use of district facilities. We can’t thank them enough.”

Family affair
Lacrosse activities extend beyond playing competitively.

For the Kaebisch family, of Bristol, Ricky and Nicole have seen their two sons Rilye and Reid play lacrosse.

Rilye, then 11 years old, started playing when the family was living in North Carolina, where Ricky served as a Navy corpsman.

Rilye, who played for the Kenosha Raptors, graduated from Westosha Central and is a sophomore at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Ricky reports Rilye’s love of lacrosse has spread to Reid, a fifth-grader at Bristol School.

“Reid really enjoys just playing the game. It is such an energetic and fast moving games that involves everyone on the field,” said Ricky. “He has mentioned that he would like to follow in Rilye’s footsteps and play defense with a long pole.”

Reid, a Lakes Antioch Lacrosse Club member in Illinois, has often worked with his older sister, Ella.

Ella, who will graduate from Westosha Central in June, spent her athletic career playing girls volleyball.

“Reid also loves working with his sister, Ella, and showing her how to scoop ground balls and pass/catch,” Ricky said. “Everyone in the house has a lacrosse stick. I love the fact that no matter what the grade level or age of the player, lacrosse brings together student-athletes from all walks of life.”

Future growth
Ava Viirre is the lone Westosha Central representative on the Kenosha Storm, but that could change, she said.

“I don’t know anyone from Central that want to play, but I do not a lot of incoming freshman that definitely want to play,” said Ave, who attended Salem Grade School.

Ricky said one of Reid’s Bristol classmates plays on his son’s team and notes many girls residing in Kenosha County are on the Kenosha Raptors.

“Reid has a classmate that is on his team this year. There are multiple girls involved in lacrosse in the county to include both middle and high school players,” he said.

DuPont, who was told about the growing interest in Kenosha County, only sees this development as a positive and shows the area has started to embrace lacrosse.

“Anytime a new club or team is founded, whether girls or boys, it means more people are embracing lacrosse and working to provide opportunities for kids to play it,” she said.

For more information on the three organizations, visit the following websites:
– Kenosha Raptors, www.kenosharaptors.com;
– Elkhorn Lacrosse Club, www.eklkhornlacrosse.com; and
– Kenosha Storm, kenoshastorm.weebly.com.


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