(WLOS) When an athlete is growing up there is a bevy of options in which to invest their talents: baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, track, you name it. Catching up quickly to the staple-sports, though, is lacrosse. Asheville High School introduced a girls program this year to go along with their second-year boys squad.
The first home game for the fledgling Cougars was Thursday when they played host to Watauga. "It's nerve-wracking, it's exciting," laughed head coach Connor Jardeleza. "Above all, I'm excited. We've all put in a lot of work."
By now most people probably have a general understanding of lacrosse, but in case you don't it's a mixture of soccer and basketball, but played with sticks. Each pole has a net on the end used to transport and shoot the ball.
The girls game differs from the boys in the size of their net pocket. "Imagine trying to catch a tennis ball with a tennis racket," explained Jardeleza of the girls nets. "That's pretty much the same equivalent."
Throwing and catching is the toughest part of the game to master according to Jardeleza. Leading a roster of mostly first-time players means bumps and bruises in the inaugural year as they traverse a steep learning curve.
"This season has been about developing our basic skills just getting to know one another," noted forward Ellie Hammonds, one of two seniors on the Cougars.
The future is the focus for AHS. "I think moving forward we're going to see a lot of improvement," predicted Hammonds. "I think that's really exciting to be like the first in something that could become really great."
The Cougars team futures isn't the only potential benefactor. "One thing I like to do to try to get the girls to play or get involved is to illustrate to them that there are new lacrosse programs opening up at every college," pointed out Jardeleza. "But the sport that they play, whether it's softball or soccer or cross country - no colleges are opening new programs with those."
Asheville dropped the first home game to the Pioneers, 12-2. The Cougars have ten more games on the schedule, however seven of them are in jeopardy because they fall in the window of March 13th-April 6th; that's the period in which spring sports are suspended by the NCHSAA due to COVID-19 concerns.
The remaining games outside the cancellation window include the home finale against Patton (4/21), a trip to T.C. Roberson (4/23), and a visit to Asheville School (4/24).