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One day lacrosse could be boss
By Jordan Bell
Seek and ye shall find.
There's an emerging movement in the Forest City area and throughout North America and many people don't even realize it exists. It's lacrosse the action-packed, speed-oriented sport which has captivated many a spectator, albeit a small group of them.
"The exposure issue is definitely the biggest problem our sport deals with," said Western head coach David Leich. "But through a direct marketing approach aimed at the grassroots level, we're beginning to address this issue and finally open some people's eyes to this great sport."
This direct marketing approach involves a plethora of different ventures. Among them, Leich organizes and runs non-profit camps over the summer months aimed at drawing enthusiasm for the sport in the greater London area.
Unfortunately, with the lack of exposure given to lacrosse, the Western squad is forced to run independently, depending on corporate sponsors and individual fees paid by team members.
With traditionally larger sports, like football, gobbling up a majority of Western's athletic funds, it wouldn't be unusual to find a hint of bitterness on the part of the squad. Leich and the team understand the dilemma though.
"Lacrosse is just recently starting to gain steam," Leich said. "We are satisfied with our situation. The university also has begun to do more for us in recent years."
The Mustang team has gradually been building a sound program. Narrowly missing the Ontario University Field Lacrosse Association finals last year the squad lost by a point to eventual league champion Guelph in the semifinals they are poised for a stellar run in 2001. Midfielder Ryan Sedgwick said although the Mustangs lost their starting defense, they're stronger as a whole.
"We have improved at every position," Sedgwick said. "We have a young team, but these individuals are quality players and we definitely should be stronger than last year."
This revamped and re-energized squad will be fuelled by their unrelenting attack, led by returning stars Jeff Campbell, Joe Falconi and German national team member Jason Jankowski. All three have been OUFLA all-stars in the past.
The OUFLA has a storied past. Founded in 1986, the league represents a push to promote the game of field lacrosse in Canada and internationally, as well as acting as the governing body for competitive play within Ontario universities.
"The league consists of eight university squads [Brock, Carleton, McMaster, Queen's, Guelph, Toronto, Laurier and Western]," Leich said.
"The success of this league has been tremendous, with many former athletes graduating to professional fame in the National Lacrosse League."
With the exposure of lacrosse gradually gaining steam, it's only a matter of time before the sport explodes. Mike Thomas, assistant coach and photographer for the team explained exactly what all the noise is about.
"Lacrosse is a powerful, fast-paced sport with extremely talented athletes," Thomas said. "The excitement of a game can't be beat."
The Mustang season opens Sept. 16 against the Brock Badgers at TD Waterhouse Stadium. Leich hopes many people will take a look because lacrosse is a diamond in the rough.