I-L's Mason Peverly runs through a drill during lacrosse practice at the Meredith Community Center last week. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
March 31, 2014MEREDITH – The Meredith Community Center was abuzz last week. Same for the Inter-Lakes Elementary School gymnasium.
There's a new sport in town, one which hopes to be playing varsity games in the near future. But for now, Inter-Lax, the name adopted by the organization looking to bring lacrosse to the communities of Meredith, Moultonborough, Center Harbor and Sandwich at the high school level, is working towards its first spring of club sport contests, mostly against prep schools in the Lakes Region.
"Last May, a group of us got together who all had kids who have played lacrosse since second grade in either Gilford or Laconia but know there's nowhere to play once they get to the high school level," said Nancy Gallagher, who serves as treasurer on the board of directors for Inter-Lax. "We did the leg work to get this up and running and we're looking forward to seeing it take off."
After a successful program last summer sponsored by the Community Center began to get the word out, Inter-Lax had good numbers for informal pick-up games last fall. Spring practice began last month, with 17 boys and 15 girls providing strong numbers for a sport that hopes to go the way of successful co-operative ventures between Inter-Lakes and Moultonborough like football and hockey.
"It's very exciting," said Gallagher of the progress. "We've been doing fundraising and all that so to actually see the teams coming together has been great. We want the kids to be a part of the fundraising so instead of money for a sign-up fee, we're asking for their time and effort to help with that."
Inter-Lax has also applied for a grant through U.S. Lacrosse, the national governing body of men's, women's and youth lacrosse. The two-year grant would provide equipment for use as well as membership status for the players on the teams.
The boys' team, which had a tentative opening game scheduled for April 5 against Holderness School, is coached by Kevin Driscoll and Nick Morse. The squad also has games against Brewster Academy and New Hampton on the schedule, with home games slated to be played at Prescott Park's Upper Field.
"The energy has been amazing so far," said Driscoll, who is from Holderness and played at Plymouth State. "It's going to take off I think because lacrosse is a fast-growing game. We keep adding people to the team."
Driscoll hopes the program can eventually make its way from the club ranks to the varsity level, a move that several schools have undergone in recent years. At Belmont High School, the girls' program played at the club level for two years before making its varsity debut this spring in Division III.
"My goal is to see this go to the varsity level," Driscoll admitted. "I think as long as the support is there, we have the ability with these kids to move up quickly. I think we could really compete with some of the D-III teams."
While the program isn't affiliated with either Inter-Lakes or Moultonborough Academy yet, the administrators are certainly aware of the new programs and their ambitions.
"The group has a clear vision and seems to be on track," said Inter-Lakes athletic director Jeff Cloos. "The ability to sustain the participation numbers at the youth league as well as for the high school club team will be the key to the club's success."
The girls' program has four coaches on board, with Kelsie Eckert, Kay Dallon, Rachel Kelly-Martin and Tammy Levesque leading a team that features 15 players including six from Moultonborough. The girls' team has home games against Brewster (April 12) and Sant Bani (May 10) amongst its calendar of contests.
While the sport of lacrosse has certainly grown in recent years, Meredith/Moultonborough youths had three main options to play: Gilford, Laconia or Plymouth. When those kids aged out of the youth programs, it was either prep school or no more lacrosse at the high school level. The interest is certainly there, with over 30 boys in the Lakes Region (Gilford) youth program alone from this area. With the potential for a high school team on the horizon, Gallagher says Inter-Lax has already seen increased interest from the youth ranks.
"Our goal is for a great lacrosse program and the signs have been positive from everything we've seen so far," she explained.
The board of directors for Inter-Lax is President Ken Hibbert, Vice President Karen Robinson, Treasurer Nancy Gallagher, Secretary Lisa Hibbery, Board Member/Girls' Liaison Stacey Dickinson and Board Member/Boys' Liaison Allison Yopp. The organization has gotten off to a good start in fundraising thanks to the support of: Hibbert Property Management, Lucky Dog Tavern, James Joy Painting, The Meredith Police Association, Mr. Athanas, Cackleberries Garden Center, Overhead Door Options, Paugus Bay Marina, Patricia and Richard Williams, John Rafuse and Cathy Barile, The Mug, Bank of New Hampshire, Sousa Painting of Chelmsford, Altrusa of Meredith, The American Motorcycle Museum, Cindy Dussault Accounting and Tracings Graphics of Alton.
For more information on the program, visit their web site at www.interlax.net.