District lacrosse team overcomes school differences, competes regionally

Mitch Sundquist, Staff Writer

Founded by Dan McNeese in the fall of 2009, the Mustangs Lacrosse Club offers an opportunity for students from Blue Valley and Blue Valley North to play lacrosse on the same team.
Before coaching the team, McNeese was an All-State midfielder in high school and played college lacrosse at Division III Washington College (Md.). In college, he was able to play in the NCAA Division III playoffs and the National Championship game.
Sophomore Luke Slagle, who plays for the Mustangs Lacrosse Club, has played lacrosse since he was young. He said he started playing lacrosse as a way to pass the time between football seasons and has played for a few teams.
“I played for a Johnson County team until sixth grade and then a team called the Blue Valley Spartans up until eighth grade,” he said. “Then played for Blue Valley North last year.”
While the Mustang Lacrosse Club has players from both BV and BVN, Slagle said the team has no trouble bonding.
“They tease us a bit, but they don’t actually hate us,” Slagle said.
McNeese said school rivalries are disregarded when the two schools come together.
“Once somebody becomes a member of the Mustang Lacrosse Club, you are embraced as a member of the team,” he said. “Rivalries between the two schools are tossed out the window.”
The Mustang Lacrosse Club is not the only lacrosse team in the district. There is also the Jaguar Lacrosse Club, which is made up of students from BV Southwest, BV West and BV Northwest.
The two teams from the district compete in the Lacrosse Association of Kansas City (LAKC). The league also consists of teams from Saint Thomas Aquinas, Olathe South, Olathe East, Shawnee Mission South, Shawnee Mission East, Leavenworth, Mill Valley, Rockhurst, Pembroke Hill, Lees Summit, Lees Summit West, Lees Summit North and Park Hill.
McNeese said the team is required to play each league team once, but is allowed to play teams outside the league as well. They have played teams from Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
The lacrosse season starts at the beginning of March and runs through the rest of spring. The team practices every night, except on game days. McNeese said lacrosse is a physically demanding sport, and he tries to center their practices around that.
“We do drills that not only mimic game situations, improve skills, and increase a players’ lacrosse I.Q., but also conditions the players,” McNeese said. “We try to cover all facets of the game in each practice if time permits.”
The playoffs include the top eight teams from the LAKC. The semi-finals and finals are played at Livestrong Sporting Park, and the JV tournament is played one week after the varsity tournament.
During the off-season, the team has conditioning beginning the week after students return from winter break. McNeese said players are also encouraged to attend various activities around Kansas City.
“There are several camps, summer and fall ball leagues and coaching clinics in the KC Metro area,” McNeese said. “If a person wants to learn how to play lacrosse, Kansas City is filled with opportunities.”
Although lacrosse is not a popular sport in the U.S., Slagle said he believes it is gaining popularity.
“It’s growing as a sport because it’s getting more exposure on television,” Slagle said.
Sophomore Jack Carrigan also plays for the Mustang Lacrosse Club. He said he believes Blue Valley should get a lacrosse team because of the players’ passion towards the sport.
“We have more love for the game because we practice and play in rain or shine without large crowds,” Carrigan said. “We still push ourselves harder than we think we can go.”
McNeese said he would also like to see the interest in lacrosse at BV increase so they can have their own team.
“The hope is that one day there are enough lacrosse players at Blue Valley High that they can have their own team and help to continue growing the sport,” he said.
McNeese said the teams goals for each season are very simple.
“Work hard every day, improve every day, honor the game and your teammates, make the season ending playoffs, and enjoy being a team and playing lacrosse,” he said.