Ten Times the Fun: US Lacrosse Nationals Reach Anniversary

The 10th annual US Lacrosse Nationals will take place in Frederica, Del., from Aug. 2-5, and will feature boys and girls competition at the 12U, 13U and 14U age groupings.

Five years ago, before Boston College junior Sam Apuzzo exploited defenses for Tewaaraton Award-type numbers to position the Eagles for another run at the NCAA championship, she led the Long Island Top Guns (N.Y.) U15 club team to the gold medal at the US Lacrosse Nationals (formerly U15 National Championships) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.

Not long after that summer event, the West Babylon (N.Y.) High School sophomore returned significant interest by BC coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein with a verbal pledge to play lacrosse there.

That same year, 3d Select, with 15 of 23 players from either Colorado or California, became the first Western-based program to win gold on the boys’ side.

The US Lacrosse Nationals has drawn teams from all over the country to experience high-level competition amidst equal parts fun and sportsmanship in a professionally run environment, establishing a link with the growth of the game since its 2009 inception. Players have gone onto great high school or collegiate careers. Teams have made names for themselves.

“This really shows the growth of the sport,” then-3d select co-coach Kevin O’Brien told Lacrosse Magazine after his team beat the Long Island Express Barracudas (N.Y.) in the championship game. “It’s not just the hotbeds anymore.”


Before she won the Tewaaraton Award and led Boston College to back-to-back NCAA championship game appearances, Sam Apuzzo helped her Long Island Top Guns team win a US Lacrosse youth national championship.

Now, as US Lacrosse prepares to host the milestone 10th edition of the event this summer, it will do so having assembled a coalition of other event operators in support of another aspect of the sport’s growth — providing consistent, high-quality youth tournament experiences to participating teams and parents.

“Anytime the national governing body is involved in something, it’s important to support it,” said Peter Lawrence, CEO of NXT Sports. “That’s what you’re seeing. We have had a lot of great event operators get on board with this.”

“This” represents the development and implementation of best-practice standards in five operational categories at tournaments: venue, game format, risk management, tournament administration, and certified US Lacrosse officials. Nearly two dozen of the industry’s best owner-operators have become part of the US Lacrosse tournament sanctioning program, employing the standards at 100 events nationwide.

“Having three young kids now, my perspective has changed dramatically on safety and age standards,” said Alex Cade, CEO of Adrenaline Lacrosse. “When US Lacrosse started to formulate this plan, that was the spirit of it.”

But there was little desire by the group to forget about competition in the name of standardization. Hence, a qualification system was developed to facilitate teams determining their own fate during the summer tournament campaign.

3d Lacrosse, Adrenaline Lacrosse, Bitter Lacrosse, Corrigan Sports Enterprises, Lacrosse Monkey, the Michigan Chapter of US Lacrosse, NXT Sports, Orlando Lacrosse, South Wake Sports, STEPS Lacrosse, Top of the Bay Lacrosse, Trilogy Lacrosse, and Ultimate Events and Sports, will run a total of 50 tournaments in 21 states that serve as qualifiers for the US Lacrosse Nationals, powered by NXT.

In addition to having adopted the US Lacrosse sanctioned tournament standards, qualifiers award points to participating teams that will be used to determine berths in the US Lacrosse Nationals, which has become a platform for positive change in the industry, alongside its traditional role of featuring elite-level competition.

This summer’s Nationals will include 16 teams in each age division (14U, 13U and 12U) for boys and girls’ teams and will take place Aug. 2-5 at state-of-the-art DE Turf Sports Complex in Frederica, Del.

“Now, we have all these events that are on the same rules structure and same points structure,” said Ryan Boyle, CEO of Trilogy Lacrosse. “All of them lead toward a more comprehensive structure that everyone can buy into.”

“When we bring our resources, talents, energy and excitement together, we can do more for our sport and more for our athletes,” Krystin Porcella, president of Top of the Bay Sports and former coach of the U.S. U19 women’s team, said. “As they progress through their season, their training and their tournaments, there’s a goal at the end.”

That structure includes, for lack of better words, a youth lacrosse tournament season that begins in the fall on a few selected weekends, omits the spring scholastic and recreation seasons, and reaches a crescendo soon thereafter. In fact, 36 qualifiers are scheduled after Memorial Day weekend, meaning there’s still time for coaches and local leaders to register teams to participate. The later start date for the US Lacrosse Nationals, which previously took place during the third or fourth week of July, cements it as the crown at the end of the calendar, in addition to allowing more time for teams to plan and execute travel.

“By working with event operators through our sanctioning program, parents and coaches can know, as they’re making decisions about what events to play in, that they’re going to be getting that consistent, safe experience,” Robin Baxter, director of club accounts and sanctioning at US Lacrosse, said.

On July 25, 2013, Apuzzo and the Top Guns flashed their gold medals and smiled for pictures with Mickey Mouse on the covered concourse of a minor league baseball stadium. Never mind the typical Central Florida downpour that actually began in the harrowing final minutes of their 14-12 defeat of the Yellow Jackets (N.Y.) in the US Lacrosse U15 national championship game. Apuzzo and a few of her teammates had endured painful semifinal losses in each of the previous two years — what’s a little rain?

“It’s an honor,” Apuzzo said. “It was finally our turn to win.”

Who will be next?

Justin Feil and John Peruso contributed to this article.

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