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Lacrosse Exploding onto Sports Scene in Football-Crazed Texas


Elite Team 91 midfielder shows his breakway speed. (Photo by Keith Jordan)

Elite Team 91 midfielder shows his breakway speed. (Photo by Keith Jordan)

Fort Bend Panther Lacrosse Hires Esteemed Development Coach To Guide Burgeoning Program

By Judy Latta

Known as the “fastest game on two feet,” lacrosse is currently the fastest-growing sport in the country, though it was created centuries ago by the native Iroquois of North America. It is an exhilarating team sport in which players run and pass a ball using a long-handled stick called a crosse, aiming to shoot the ball into their opponents’ goal to score. Lacrosse participation rates nationwide have more than tripled since 2001, and have flourished at an even more frantic pace here in Fort Bend County over the past few years.

Not so long ago, however, lacrosse was virtually non-existent in our area.

In 2011, lacrosse enthusiasts Glenn and Deanna Reitman, moved from Bellaire to Sienna Plantation with their two young sons, and were disappointed to find that the sport had very little representation in Fort Bend County. So, that same year the Reitmans launched Sienna Panthers Lacrosse with 27 boys fourth grade and under, run only by volunteer parent coaches, most of whom had never played the sport.

Today, only six years later, the club has morphed into Fort Bend Panthers Lacrosse with 225 boys from across the county and 35 girls from across Houston, ranging from beginner to elite, kindergarten through 12th grade. Coaches are now expertly trained in the sport and coaching techniques, and the players compete on modern turf fields at the scenic Camp Sienna sports complex. This past spring the high school boys’ team reached a new echelon of success for the program by making it to the Super Regionals of Texas Lacrosse, boasting six All-Star, All-District and All-State players.

TAKING THE NEXT STEP

Now, with these accomplishments and the growing local popularity of the program, Fort Bend Panthers Lacrosse is ready to take the next step. The club has recruited and hired three new professional staff members to support the growing club, including a full-time Director of Player Development from New York, the lacrosse capital of the country. Ed Torriero, an esteemed lacrosse player and coach, will move from Long Island to Houston this fall to guide and develop Fort Bend Panthers Lacrosse. A former Captain and All-American at the New York Institute of Technology, he has been coaching youth lacrosse since 2011.

Joining him is Coach Stephanie DiLegge, first-team East Coast Conference (ECC) Goalie from Mercy College in New York, to run the Fort Bend Panthers Girls’ High School program. Stephanie will work closely with Coach Alexa Sullivan, who takes over as Head Coach for youth girls.

Ed explains that he is excited to model the Fort Bend program after the New York brand of lacrosse, the gold standard for the sport, to create exceptional opportunities for athletes in our area. “Coming down to the Fort Bend area not only means I get to spread the game I love and something I am passionate about; it means that I’ll have an opportunity to take this program to the next level with coaching, more training year-round and pushing these kids to be the best they can on and off the field,” he says. “My goal is to get kids recruited from Fort Bend County. Lacrosse is one of those sports that is still growing in college as well, and there is (scholarship) money everywhere to be given out.” Ed says that getting recruited to play in college “is the best feeling in the world.”

According to Deanna, “This is truly the next level for the kids of Sienna Plantation and Fort Bend County. It means relevant lacrosse training and program longevity.” Without professional training staff, youth athletic programs are susceptible to mediocrity or even to fading out of existence. For obvious reasons, Deanna explains, “Most parents stop volunteering after their kids stop playing, making for disjointed policies and procedures, or a drop-off in training quality.” Ed and the rest of the professional training staff, however, will provide Fort Bend Panthers Lacrosse with a strong and consistent foundation for continued growth and improvement.

THE CLUB’S MOTTO: PRIDE

In addition to teaching skills of the sport and developing all-around athleticism, Ed is committed to continuing the club’s objective of teaching players life skills and good sportsmanship. The club’s motto is PRIDE, which stands for Preparation, Respect, Integrity, Determination, and Effort. The success of the program is not only assessed on wins and losses, but also on the character of the players representing each Panther team. Players, the front-line representatives of the club, understand that they are expected to not only give their all on the field, but also in the classroom and at home.

GET INVOLVED

This fall, Fort Bend Panthers Lacrosse will offer its Lacrosse Academy, Sunday practice squad, clinics, and private lessons for girls and boys kindergarten through 12th grade. Beginners and experienced players are all welcome. For new players, no gear is required.

Fort Bend Panther Lacrosse is also home to the Team 91 Texas Lacrosse club, a select player organization with boys and girls from third grade through high school from all over Houston. The goal of Team 91 Texas, which fields both regional and national elite travel teams, is to bring the best youth lacrosse players of Texas together onto select teams to travel to both fall and summer tournaments providing players with opportunities to network and gain exposure.

In its two short years of operation, Team 91 Texas teams of all grade levels have won tournaments throughout the country, most notably this past summer, winning the Long Island Lax Fest in Farmingdale, New York and the Bitter Lax Fest in Stowe, Vermont. These championships were huge accomplishments for a new program playing against some of the best teams in the country. “Texas has arrived on the national lacrosse scene,” Deanna says proudly.

Currently, some Team 91 Texas players are being recruited to play lacrosse for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1, 2 and 3 programs, as well as for Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Asso­ciation (MCLA) programs.

For more information on Fort Bend Panthers Lacrosse or Team 91 Texas, visit fbpantherslax.org, or email fortbendlacrosse@gmail.com.

 

Fort Bend Panthers preparing to take the field.

Fort Bend Panthers preparing to take the field.

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An attackman takes the field to score goals for the Fort Bend Panthers.

A Fort Bend Panthers defenseman in position to protect the team’s goal.

A Fort Bend Panthers defenseman in position to protect the team’s goal.

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A Panthers player uses the cradling technique for keeping the ball inside the pocket of her lacrosse stick.

Team 91 Texas Lacrosse Club midfielder, also known as a “middie.” Team 91 fields both regional and national elite travel teams.

Team 91 Texas Lacrosse Club midfielder, also known as a “middie.” Team 91 fields both regional and national elite travel teams.


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