By Manotick Messenger Staff
The St. Mark Lions hosted the first high school girls lacrosse game ever played in Ottawa last week.
The girls lacrosse team is new, and the school has become the first in the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association to start a girls lacrosse program. Boys lacrosse has been an NCSSAA sport for more than 20 years, but girls lacrosse has never been offered.
“We started the program in 2020, but because of COVID, we were not able to play until this year,” said long time local lacrosse coach Dan Leduc.
On Thursday, April 28, St. Mark hosted Everest Academy of Vaughn and Albert College of Belleville. The teams played mini games against each other in the morning, before St. Mark played Albert in a full, regulation lacrosse game in the afternoon.
“Everest is one of the top three high school girls lacrosse teams in the province, and they have several girls heading to NCAA schools on scholarship to play lacrosse,” Leduc said.
The event marked the second time in the last three years that St. Mark has been trailblazers in Ottawa for developing high school girls teams in traditional boys sports. In 2019, St. Mark introduced high school girls football. While they did not have anyone to play against, they had enough players to field two full teams, and they played an intrasquad game at TD Place Stadium.
This year, the Lions girls football team will be playing a game against St. Joseph High School.
Leduc has been coaching lacrosse in the area since 1982. He has coached many of the area’s top players who have gone on to play college and professional lacrosse. He has a daughter who plays on the team.
“There are girls playing lacrosse at the club level, but Ottawa has never had high school girls lacrosse,” Leduc said. “In Ontario, girls high school lacrosse is growing. The Oshawa area alone has 17 teams playing.”
Women’s lacrosse is also available at the university level in Ontario. There are nine universities with women’s teams in the OUA (Ontario University Athletics). Lacrosse has always been a big college sport south of the border, and Leduc says women’s lacrosse is the fastest growing NCAA sport.
Like in hockey, girls lacrosse is non-contact. Leduc said it’s an easy and inexpensive sport to participate in. The St. Mark team receives no money from the school and is self-funded. Because of the cost of buses, the team has been limited in its ability to travel for games or tournaments. COVID-19 has also made it difficult to get a schedule.
For next season, all 23 of the St. Mark players are back in school, and Leduc is hoping to give his team more game action. Section 10 in New York State has a high school girls lacrosse league with teams in Ogdensburg, Massena, Heuvelton, Canton, Potsdam and throughout the area. He would also like to take his team to Queen’s in Kingston or St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY to watch a university girls lacrosse game.
“With a lot of the border restrictions being phased out, that will give the team opportunities to play more teams and to be exposed to girls lacrosse at a higher level,” he said.
There is one tournament Leduc is eyeing for his team.
“We would like to represent the National capital association at OFSAA next year,” referring to the provincial high school girls championships. “We are the only team in the NCSSAA, so it would be great to take the team to the provincial championships.”