By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — The lacrosse world converged on Philadelphia this weekend, with Lincoln Financial Field hosting the NCAA Division I, II and III national championships. The whole weekend grew close to 70,000 fans — and you won’t come across a better tailgate city than at a major lacrosse event.
This weekend also proved something else — that major lacrosse talent is just as big from the Philadelphia area as it is in traditional lacrosse hotbeds like Long Island, New York and Baltimore, Maryland.
Proof came this weekend, in Duke’s tremendous, come-from-behind 16-10 victory over Syracuse in the Division I championship on Sunday.
Three major players came through with vital roles for the Blue Devils, starting with Lower Merion High School grad Jordan Wolf, Duke’s leading scorer this season who led all goal scorers over the weekend with eight goals.
Malvern Prep grads Henry Lobb and Billy Conners were defensive stoppers for the Blue Devils, and Haverford School grad Matt Walters played a specialty role for Syracuse, on the Orangemen’s man-up offense.
“You look at any major program in this country and they’ll have two or three Philly kids,” Syracuse coach John Desko said on Saturday, prior to the championship game. “It is a prime area that I know has gained the respect from coaches all over the country that last 10, 15 years.”
Throughout the weekend the Lincoln Financial Field parking lot was filled with kids carrying lacrosse sticks in their hands, having a catch with friends or parents. The game is the country’s fastest growing team sport over the last 10 years.
“I’ve played against kids from all over the country, and I’d say the Philadelphia area is right there with Long Island and Baltimore, just look at our team,” said Wolf on Saturday. “This area helped prepare me for major Division I lacrosse. It’s because some of the best players come from this area. More and more kids are playing the sport, and you’re seeing younger kids play it.”
The Philadelphia area dominates Pennsylvania in lacrosse. La Salle won the first state title and Conestoga has won the last three state titles since the PIAA, the governing body of Pennsylvania high school sports, has recognized lacrosse as a sanctioned sport. In fact, more female and male athletes from the Philadelphia area play Division I lacrosse than all of the sports in the area combined.
“We’re always looking at the Philadelphia area for kids,” Duke coach John Danowski said. “They’ve helped make us a winning program.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.