Illinois women’s lacrosse club finishes 5th at regionals, promotes sport to youth

The Illini women’s lacrosse club’s season was a success on and off the field.

Illinois finished 7-3, making it the conference champion. The club also went to the regional playoffs in Toledo, Ohio, on April 18 and narrowly lost its first game to Miami-Ohio, an improvement from last year’s blowout loss at the hands of the RedHawks.

“We had a great season,” head Coach Colleen Symansky said. “We went through the season playing some pretty hard teams with a lot of new girls on the team, and we were very happy with how we played.”

“We had the best season we’ve had during my four years here,” vice president Meg LoBianco said. “The team camaraderie and the way we worked together were phenomenal.”

The club also worked to promote lacrosse in the C-U area. This year, the women’s lacrosse club partnered with the Illinois Girls Lacrosse Association. The IGLA is a non-profit organization that promotes lacrosse for girls in third through eighth grade by setting up camps and clinics. The IGLA had a girls clinic on April 9 and will have a three-day summer camp in June working with the Champaign Park District. Club members have also conducted demos across C-U elementary and middle schools. At the clinics, the members teach children the fundamentals of lacrosse, such as shooting, passing and stick handling.

A few members performed a demo for fourth and fifth graders at Booker T. Washington Elementary School during spring break. The goal is to expose lacrosse to youth otherwise unfamiliar with the game.

“It’s something that we started this year,” president Charlotte Piwowar said. “IGLA have a lot of branches in the Chicago area and they sponsor clinics for girls so that they can learn more about lacrosse. They were interested in starting a branch in Champaign, so we partnered up in order to spearhead that effort. We talk about what’s the right way to pass and catch and using the stick, shooting and then general fundamentals, rules of the game, just the basic understanding of what the game is like, that’s what we’re helping them do at the camps.”

Piwowar stressed the importance of branching out to the community and promoting the sport.

“It’s something beyond just playing lacrosse,” Piwowar said. “Once the playing season is over it’s not the end, it’s something that’s really great for a lot of us.”

“Especially in the Midwest, it’s not one of the most popular sports,” LoBianco added. “A lot of people don’t understand the rules and aren’t familiar with it. Over the east coast and west coast it’s more popular. It’s a great sport for women to get involved in, it’s really important they know what options are available to them. The sport is getting popular in the Midwest and is up-and-coming.”

Symansky said anyone who is interested should not hesitate to play the sport.

“The biggest thing is to just go out and try the sport of lacrosse,” Symansky said.

“If you like it, if you like the teamwork, if you like the sport, then try it if you’re at all interested.”