With its mixture of physicality, speed, agility and skill, it is not surprising that lacrosse is now the fastest growing sport in the USA, with approximately 750,000 athletes taking part at school and university level and a professional league now fully established. In the UK, even though it is not seen as a mainstream sport, lacrosse too is anecdotally one of the fastest growing sports in recent years with 200,000 people participating in both men and women’s lacrosse in the past year. Cardiff University Lacrosse club has also seen this increase in participation with the club growing from around 30 or so members back in 2011 to a thriving 154 members today. This increase in participation has subsequently led to an increase in performance, with the men’s 1st team making three consecutive BUCS trophy finals and currently are sitting comfortably in the Premiership. The ladies’ 1st team are fighting for promotion back into the Premiership after a two year absence. Along with the club becoming increasingly more competitive over the last few years the addition of men and women’s second teams and a women’s beginners’ team has been possible. The success of the clubs’ teams has led to and been a result of considerable individual success. There are currently five international athletes and a further nine who are part of the women’s and men’s development programs.
This coming July will see Hungary host the men’s European Championship event, over the last few months Wales lacrosse has held a series of trials to pick a squad for this upcoming tournament. Seven members of this year’s university first team attended the trial process, which along with selecting the European squad was looking at selecting U19 and development squads. With the first trial taking place at the start of the September and the final trial at end of November the boys have seen multiple exhausting weekends to fit in around day to day life. There was a record turnout with over 50 players taking part across these trial days. The emphasis from the beginning was on the fact that everyone was fighting for their place on the flight to Budapest. Several Cardiff University Lacrosse club members, past and present, took part in these trials as much for the experience as the right to represent their country. Lacrosse is a relatively small game in the UK and especially Wales, so the opportunity to train with so many high level players is not to be missed. From Welsh speakers to those with strangely American sounding accents and Welsh Grandparents, everyone was equal until proven otherwise.
The squad announcements took place just before Christmas with Silas Fuller being selected to represent Wales at this years’ European Championship event. Silas, now in his fifth year of playing lacrosse, picked up a stick for the first time in the 2nd year of his medical degree. Silas has transitioned over the last couple of seasons from an aggressive hard hitting short stick defensive midfielder into a reliable, athletic and commanding defender and will look to impress in his first International competition. Paul Chapman and Jamie Bodnar-Horvath have both made the reserves list for the squad and will be looking to impress over the coming few months to potentially earn a spot on the final squad list for July. Paul, who started playing at Timperley Lacrosse club in South Manchester aged 11, arrived at Cardiff as an outstanding goalkeeper but over the past few seasons has worked hard to become an outstanding midfielder with one hell of an engine as well as becoming one of the top face off specialists in Wales with uncanny hand speed. Meanwhile Jamie, now in his fourth season after starting lacrosse at university, has developed into a ball winning defender with a knack for ground balls and a great lacrosse IQ. All three of the boys have a hard six months to go in order to ensure they are ready for the test of international competition along with being an integral part of the university team over the final few weeks of the season.
The Welsh Dragons (development squad) has included the selection of University captain Mark Cork and goalkeeper Samuel Hobby. Nick Goodwin and University Vice-Captain Alex Russell have both been selected to represent Wales at U19 level, a huge achievement by both as they only started playing lacrosse last academic year. Other members of the men’s first team will be looking to represent the Welsh Universities side at the British National Championships in May.
International success within the lacrosse club is not limited to the men’s team, with two of the current Ladies’ 1st Team gaining caps for their respective countries at junior and senior level. Current Ladies’ 1st team co-captain and 2nd year medical student, Bex Jordache, is one of the few Cardiff students who can boast about winning a World Cup medal. Bex was part of the bronze medal winning England U19 Team that competed last summer at the U19 World Cup, held in Edinburgh, where England surprised everyone in beating Australia in the 3rd/4th play-off match. The midfielders dedication and hard work in the build up to the World Cup, which included up to 12 gym sessions a week, 3 weekly lacrosse sessions, regular England squad training weekends and a lengthy alcohol ban, was not only rewarded by the bronze medal but also being named Cardiff University’s Fresher of the Year at the annual AU awards night last summer. Naturally, Bex chose to take a break from International lacrosse following the World Cup to allow her to enjoy the more social side of university life; however, she is back, this time as a coach, helping the new generation of U19 England players. Her ultimate aim is to make the next World Cup in 2021.
Another member of the ladies’ team who is looking to be part of a World Cup is Anni Seaborne. The 5th year dentist is relatively new to the international scene, becoming a member of the Wales Elite squad last February alongside Cardiff alumni Amy Rochford. After initially being approached by Wales management following an impressive performance in Varsity, the defensive midfielder was called up as an injury replacement to the February 2015 tour to the USA and has since remained part of the squad, earning her first cap against England at last years’ Home Internationals, the lacrosse equivalent of the Six Nations. Unfortunately, she sustained a spinal injury last May and was sidelined until early December; however, now recovered she is hoping to cement her place in the Welsh squad and ultimately make the final roster for the 2017 World Cup which will be held in England next Summer.
Anni is not the only Cardiff lady in the Welsh set up with a further five ladies, Fiona Tait, Sophie Snell, Maeve McKenny, Anna Jones and Ella Fairlie, impressing at recent trials in November and being selected to join the Talent and Development squad.
Cardiff University Lacrosse Club will be running a Give it a Go session on Friday 29th January, 6.30 at Talybont Astro. Anyone and everyone welcome.