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Friday, April 16, 2010

Living in Fantasy Land... Part 10

Welcome to 2025

No, this isn't a Warrior shoe commercial. But those awesome ads depicting a near future where lax is a major sport did inspire my choice of year for the final (as of now) post in the Living in Fantasy Land series. In those commercials, lax is no longer relegated to fringe status and superstars like Nicky Polanco are shown with sweet cribs and half naked girls (although Polanco will be well beyond his playing prime in 15 years; heck he'll be 30 this August). They are a definitely a step up from their "All Hail" commercials and a vast improvement over their other juvenile ads.

The shoes hold a lot of promise. They boast New Balance's legendary comfort, fit, durability, and technology without the old man mall walker reputation and looks. Their designs are fresh and appealing in a very similar way to Under Armour shoes. They are on my radar when I need new kicks.

But enough about the shoes. Let's get down to business. In the previous posts, I made mockups of helmets and uniforms. I gave varying descriptions of why certain areas and/or schools were chosen. Unfortunately that will not happen here. It is possible that I may add that in the future, but I feel that is getting stale and it's time to move on.

In case you did not figure out from the title and the earlier rant, we are fast forwarding 7 years (from the last post) to 2025. At this point lacrosse has continued to establish itself in Iowa at both the high school and college levels. The quality of play will still be rocky in some levels, but more established teams will make it a point to play in tournaments against teams in Minnesota, KC, StL, Chicago, etc. to improve their abilities.

While I am only assuming one level of play at this time, it is not a big stretch to see multiple levels develop as the sport continues to grow. To keep travel costs at a minimum, I have increased the number of divisions and placed four teams within each. These could be lumped together into larger conferences like football and basketball are. Right now they serve more as an illustration of how things could look 15 years down the road. The new schools are listed in their official color and include their mascot names.

North: Ames, Mason City, Fort Dodge Dodgers, Webster City Lynx
South: Pella, Albia, Ottumwa Bulldogs, Knoxville Panthers
Mississippi: Davenport N, Hempstead, Assumption Knights, Wahlert Golden Eagles
Cedar Valley S: CR Jefferson, CR Kennedy, Iowa City High, Mount Vernon Mustangs
Cedar Valley N: Waterloo, Waverly-Shell Rock Go Hawks, Cedar Falls Tigers, Aplington-Parkerburg Falcons
Sioux: SC East, Storm Lake Tornadoes, MOC-Floyd Valley Dutch, SC Heelan Crusaders
West: CB Lincoln, CB Jefferson Yellow Jackets, Atlantic Trojans, Harlan Cyclones
Central: Valley, Dowling Catholic, Urbandale, Johnston
Capital: Ankeny, DM Lincoln Railsplitters, DM Roosevelt Roughriders, DM East Scarlets
Metro East: SE Polk, Marshalltown Bobcats, Newton Cardinals, Grinnell Tigers
Metro South: Indianola, Carlisle Wildcats, Norwalk Warriors, Winterset Huskies
Metro West: Waukee, Adel-DeSoto-Minburn Tigers, Perry Bluejays, Dallas Center-Grimes Mustangs

Obviously not every one of these schools would field a lax team in the real world. But remember that this is fantasy land where magical dreams come true and lax is king. Plus, we are talking about 2025 where lax is a prime time sport with players living pro lifestyles.

From this rough outline, you can see how simple it would be to add new programs to the 12 conferences above. Some shuffling may occur from time to time and I did not address three of the four corners of the state. Given its proximity to St. Louis, it is not hard to imagine Keokuk getting in on the action, for example. To make things simple, a new conference could be added once four teams existence in an area, or teams can be independents like NCAA teams.

Existing conferences should cap at ten teams to allow plenty of non conference games while still playing everybody once. From there the league could move into a bracketed tournament for the state championship, with conference champions seeded based upon their records.


That concludes our journey through the Iowa High School Lacrosse Fantasy Land. Perhaps someday it will be a reality; we can only hope. But with dedicated laxers popping up around the state, maybe someday will be sooner rather than later. I am hopeful that we can reach 6 teams by the 2015 season, but that will require more coaches and players in Des Moines.

I am curious to hear your responses to the series as a whole. What schools did I include that I should not have and vice versa? Which uniform combinations worked and which did not?

Somewhere down the pipeline I will take a look at the Iowa colleges and their place in Fantasy Land. Existing clubs will remain where they currently reside, but new programs will be looked at and their potential leagues discussed.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Living in Fantasy Land... Part 9b

The first installment of this round of expansion saw teams rise in Sioux City and Council Bluffs. This installment shifts the focus to the eastern side of the state.

Hempstead Mustangs

Based on my limited knowledge of Dubuque, Hempstead seems to be the most likely candidate to sponsor a lacrosse team. The schools' demographics are not too far off of most of the schools I have already identified and the city is a hockey haven, which seems to translate to a willing acceptance of lax. As a bonus, there are current efforts to get lacrosse started in Dubuque right now. Not to mention the fact that Hempstead is a major lax town on Long Island.
Green and gold is not exactly my favorite color scheme, so I based the Mustangs' design on their football uniforms. Unfortunately those designs are very similar to the Green Bay Packers (gag). This includes gold helmets and shorts paired with a green jersey.
Davenport North Wildcats

I chose North as the first school on the Iowa side of the Quad Cities to field a lacrosse team because of their competitive reputation. The fact that the Wildcats have a fresh color scheme to work with is merely icing on the cake.The above listed Dubuque school may share a name with Hofstra's home city, but the Wildcats share their colors and even have a fairly similar mascot. While I doubt the real club would wear tiger stripes as most "Wildcats" are depicted as bobcats, lynx, or cougars, I felt they added an interesting style element to the design.Since I found a semi-usable copy of their logo and wordmark, I incorporated both into the designs. The colors do not match exactly, but I feel it gives the concept a better representation of what the actual uniforms would look like than if I had used generic items.As part of the Quad Citites, Davenport boasts MCLA clubs at Palmer Chiropractic and Augustana College (Rock Island, IL). Having two established college programs in the metro gives the Wildcats a leg up on available coaching staff much like what is available in the Cedar Rapids metro. The Wildcats could prove to be competitive as early as their first year.

-2018 Divisions-

North: Ames, Mason City, Ankeny, Johnston
South: Pella, Albia, Indianola, Southeast Polk
Mississippi: Davenport N, Hempstead
Cedar Valley: Waterloo, CR Jefferson, CR Kennedy, Iowa City High
Central: Valley, Waukee, Dowling Catholic, Urbandale
West: CB Lincoln, SC East

Living in Fantasy Land... Part 9a

Now that I have given Drake a polished look, it is time to resume where we left off. As lax continues to get more established around the state, it is only natural that the cities on the edges of the state will want to get involved. It is not hard to imagine that four teams from distinctly different areas will join the Iowa High School League in the same year. We'll head west for the first installment of this expansion year.

Abraham Lincoln Lynx

Eventually the River City Black Knights should give way to teams representing the various high schools in Council Bluffs. I chose Abraham Lincoln mostly because I like their nickname, "Lynx." In all honesty, I no pretty much nothing about the specific schools in Council Bluffs.
Once again the team has a blue, white and red color scheme. I chose to go with blue shorts and away jerseys while utilizing the same font that I used on Albia. The color pattern is a little different, but the teams would not be in the same division anyway so it does not matter.I went with a white helmet to produce a smooth color scheme. The red chin and chinstrap provide a nice break from the jerseys. Blue is tied back in via the visor and Mohawk stripe.
Sioux City East Black Raiders

As one of the larger metros in the state with a storied hockey program, Sioux City will no doubt be interested in lax. East High was chosen because of their fairly strong sports reputation. Of course North and Bishop Heelan are no slouches either.With a name like "Black Raiders" the dominant color was never in doubt. Black on black on black is the only way to go. The customizer even gave me a nice logo to use for the mock ups. In fact, the hardest part of the design was incorporating orange in a way that was not obnoxious and still maintained the ferocity associated with pirates.
As the third team in this series to wear black and orange, it was difficult to give East a unique helmet. Since I went with white for Valley, I only had to contend with my choice for Ames. At this point I was not going to go back and change the Little Cyclones' helmet so I had to go forward with their lid in mind. Originally I considered an all black helmet, but that looked too amateur for a varsity team. Then I tried just on orange item: the visors did not improve on the amateur look, the chin was alright, the visor was too gaudy, and the Mohawk just looked silly. My final decision provides the perfect balance of orange while maintaining the tough yet simple look the Black Raiders deserve.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The (Broken) Machine

The Philadelphia Barrage won the Steinfeld Cup in 2006 and 2007. In 2008 they were homeless; they played all of their games on the road in exhibition cities. In 2009 the Barrage were removed from the league along with the New Jersey Pride, the San Fransisco Dragons, the Los Angeles Riptide, and the 2008 Cup winning Rochester Rattlers.
The Chicago Machine are arguable the worst team ever in Major League Lacrosse. Debuting in the 2006 season, the Machine did not win a game until the second week of the 2007 season. Never topping three wins, Chicago has finished last every season. It is no surprise then that the Machine are in serious trouble.
After wearing red throughout their existence, the Machine rebranded themselves in a Hopkins-esque Columbia blue and black scheme last season. The new color scheme was meant to emulate Chicago's flag but looked weak in the confines of Toyota Park whose anchor franchise, the Fire, wear red. For some reason, all Machine merchandise available online remained red.
Half of the team's home games were played outside of Toyota Park. The opening and closing games were upgraded to Soldier Field. The third home game outside of their official stadium was held in Milwaukee to test that market for a potential MLL franchise in the future. Milwaukee is close enough to the Windy City to avoid suspicion.
About a month ago, I heard a rumor that the Machine would not have any home games in Chicago this season. I searched in vain for some sort of confirmation but found nothing. Last week the MLL announced that the Machine would host the Denver Outlaws in Rochester. As a one off game, the teams chosen seem kind of odd; the article mentions nothing about a full road schedule for the Machine.
This article popped up yesterday. Not only does it talk about the Machine hosting the Cannons in Virginia Beach, it also confirms that the Machine will be playing a full road schedule this year:
"The Machine will play their entire 2010 regular season as a travel team with additional dates and locations to be announced in the coming weeks."
Although the front page of the Machine's website says that tickets are now on sale, the schedule page tells a different story. Currently all of the games are listed as "away" except for the Rochester and Virginia Beach games. Expect to see the remaining four "home" games updated as those locations are announced. Just don't expect the locations to be listed on that page.
Much like the Barrage in 2008, I see this as the end of the Machine. Unlike Philadelphia, I expect the Machine franchise to resurface in some form for 2011 as I cannot imagine the league attempting to run with only 5 teams. The game in Rochester indicates that the league is looking to return to that market as early as next year which could result in a strong and bitter rivalry with Toronto. The Nationals are essentially the former Rattlers.
Based on the Barrage's tour, there are some cities/markets I expect to appear on the Machines journeys:

  • Dallas - most likely Pizza Hut Park in Frisco. The North Texas sports market is one of the strongest in the country and lax has really taken off in the metro.
  • Orlando or Tampa. The Titans success holds promise for a pro field team. Both cities have potential facilities and Florida is another state with a strong lacrosse culture.
  • Cincinnati. I am not sure where they would play as I know very little about the city, but I have heard numerous rumors about the league's desire to have a team in Ohio. Lately Cincy has popped up more than Columbus and Cleveland combined.
  • Seattle. The fans have done wondrous things in a very short period with the Sounders. The Stealth moved this this season and are having strong numbers. Washington is a booming lax area. Vancouver and Portland are close enough to travel.
  • Pittsburgh. It's no secret that a serious effort is underway to get a pro lax team - any pro lax team - in Pitt.
  • Philadelphia. This may seem like a sleeper, but Philly has a brand new soccer stadium this year that might be the key to bringing pro lax back to the City of Brotherly Love.
There are other cities that I feel deserve a shot or in some cases a second chance. The Twin Cities, St. Louis, San Jose, Salt Lake City, and Houston all come to mind. I just do not see the league targeting these locales this time around. Perhaps the next "tour" will look at these cities. I am not opposed to having a touring team until the league can afford to expand again either. However a permanently touring team presents some logistical and economic challenges. It will be interesting to see how the MLL recovers from this. Then again, Warrior recently became the principle sponsor of the LXM Pro Tour, so maybe touring is the future of pro field lax...
Losing the Machine will definitely hurt the Midwest lax market. It might also impact the Outlaws who are on a virtual island, now more than ever. But Denver has the advantage of being near a stronger lacrosse market than Chicago and has two NCAA Division I programs nearby (Denver and Airforce). There are also Division III and MCLA programs in their neighborhood.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Early Summer League Notes

2010 Central Iowa Lacrosse Association
Summer Lacrosse League

I had grand plans this morning before I left for work to post this information on the actual Central Iowa Lacrosse Website. Unfortunately my PC, modem, and/or router decided that it did not need to connect to the Internet.

This year I am taking a much firmer stance on the way the summer lacrosse program will work. Last year it was a casual pick up league which resulted in sporadic attendance. This caused problems as one week we would have 7 guys and the next we would have 27. Sometimes we would have full fledged games with 10 per side and others we would not have enough for a half field scrimmage.

Making matters worse were the selfish guys. On the nights when there actually were subs, everyone was supposed to make an effort to let people get some time; yet a couple of guys refused to ever get off the field. I applaud those that repeatedly took themselves off to let new players on. In the end we were all out there to have a good time, but those that showed no respect by never rotating off did their best to ruin it for some people. Not a great way to help the sport grow...

But after a successful box league over the winter, I have learned a lot. As the lax population in Des Moines continues to grow, we are moving into a better position to have an actual field league as opposed to random pick up games. This summer we will have a more formal field lacrosse league. Period.

Here are some things to expect:

  • Early June-Mid August
  • Thursday nights, starting at 6:00
  • Open to adult and high school players
  • 3-4 Teams chosen by appointed captains
  • Team reversibles
  • A small fee to cover the reversible & league expenses*
  • If you do not pay, you will not play
  • Substitutes will be allowed but limited & approved by the ref & opposing team
  • Every team will be responsible for providing refs & youth assistants

The full details are still being worked out, of course. I am in the process of arranging a field. Hopefully there will be lacrosse lines, but I cannot guarantee anything yet. The most important points to consider revolve around the organization of the league. Every player will be responsible for paying a fee up front to receive their reversible and be eligible to play.** You are basically buying the team reversible and playing for free.

Every team will provide a ref and scorer for the games between the other teams. The only stats kept will be penalties, goals, and assists (sorry goalies) to keep things simple. If a team fails to provide two officials, that team will suffer a forfeit loss with stiffer penalties for repeated infractions.

Depending on the number of teams and expected daylight hours, we will have at least one game per week. It is possible that we may have two games provided we have four teams and plenty of daylight. The games will be running time and split by half time only. Time outs will be available.

Sure there will be pick up games as well, most likely on a biweekly basis. There will also be introductory Toss Arounds on Saturdays, probably on a monthly or triweekly basis. But the main focus of our summer program this year will be the organized league.

The pickup league will be run like last year only on a different night - probably Monday or Tuesday. This league will be free and stats will not be kept. The number of pick up games may be altered based upon participation and response.

We will also have a youth program for kids in grades 5-8. This program will be introductory in nature and will focus primarily on teaching skills to younger players. At this time the specifics are not nailed down, but the goal is to have them playing scrimmage games by July. Summer league teams will also be required to provide an assistant for these sessions as CILA's ultimate goal is increasing participation and creating a sustainable lacrosse community. Fee and reversible considerations are currently being made. These sessions will run at the same time as the Summer League.

CILA is also looking for team sponsors to cover the initial reversible jersey costs. Each sponsor will receive an official reversible to display in their place of business. Links, logos, and phone numbers will be posted on the CILA website to identify them as an official sponsor. A link will be posted on this blog as well. Teams will be identified by their sponsor's name on the CILA website, this blog, and Facebook. The Summer League sponsorship has the potential to carry over to the 2010 Box League will minimal (if any) additional cost. If you or some one you know is interested in sponsoring a team or the youth program this summer, please contact me directly.

As the Valley season draws to a close next month and June draws nearer, more concrete information will be posted. Until then, I will try to keep everyone up to date on what is going on. The bulleted items above are sticking points to this year's program.

*I am not taking a cut of the fees. The fee will be purely to cover the cost of reversibles and to help maintain the goals used by CILA. We currently use Valley's goals; as such we should help offset the cost of replacing those nets. Further, CILA is investing in regulation size box lacrosse goals for this year's box league. As CILA is not funded, the summer league's dues will help offset that cost as well. Everything goes back into the Central Iowa Lacrosse Association.
**Getting money for the Box League was easy for the most part, but some guys "forgot" to pay repeatedly. This will not be the case for all future leagues. All money will be turned in upfront or you will not be able to play.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday Morning Tiger Report - Week 3

Yesterday Valley left Indian Hills around 6:00 am bound for Lincoln, NE. Spirits were high as we hit the interstate following our win over Millard West last week. Nobody was prepared for what would happen in Lincoln...
We left West Des Moines at 6:00 am. We drove three hours to get to the games. Not an excuse.
The Tigers' first game started at 10:00 am. We got to the field at little after 9:00 and tried to get the guys warming up as much as possible. Since there was already a game in progress, it was kind of tough. Not an excuse.
Last year's only loss came during the UNL tournament in Lincoln, at the Vine Fields on the Nebraska campus. Yesterday's games were on another field at the Nebraska campus. Last year's game was at 10:00 am; yesterday's game was at 10:00 am. Not an excuse.
With no disrespect to the Rampage, we beat ourselves. Simply, we did not show up ready to play. Lincoln, knowing about our upset win over Millard West last week, were ready to take us down. Having lost to West already this season, the Rampage saw a win over Valley as their statement game. Unfortunately we supplied them the paper and pen to make that statement. After going up by two goals early, Valley hit the cruise control to let the Rampage score three unanswered goals. Lincoln led by a goal at halftime.
Despite a wake up call during the break, the Tigers still played sloppy and lazy lacrosse. Once again midfield Dylan Griess answered the call and led both teams in scoring with five goals. In the end it was not enough as the Tigers gave up a goal with 26 seconds left to lost 7-6. West Side Lax has a complete write up.
The second game of the day was against a struggling Papillion-La Vista team. The Monarchs came into the game winless and the trend held as Valley won 8-1. Papio's goalie looked strong in net and kept the game relatively close. With a bit more back line support and improved firepower upfront, the Monarchs could be a force to reckon with.
Valley was not the only team to beat itself this weekend. Michigan, the most dominant program in the MCLA, lost to 2-5 Colorado over the weekend. Coming in with back-to-back national championships and a 49 game winning streak stretching back to 2008, the Wolverines were the hands down favorites in the MCLA. Colorado has been struggling all year and fired their head coach last week.
With an interim coach, nobody expected anything from the Buffaloes - especially not Michigan. There is no doubt that the win was monumental for Colorado. Still, it should have little negative impact on the Wolverines over the course of the season.
I mention the Michigan loss because it mirrors Valley's loss yesterday. Both are cases of a top ranked team with a potent offense and solid defense that did not show up to play. Individual efforts aside, both teams failed to respect their opponents by assuming that they would just walk out with a win. Coach Paul sums it up best:

“We were flat all day and in warm-ups. We’re telling the guys right up to the start that they were about to get punched in the mouth.”
This weekend the Tigers travel to Omaha to face division opponents Burke (11 am) and Westside (1pm) at Creighton Prep. The JV faces Prep (3 pm) and Burke (5 pm).

Tribe 7