When Wake Forest opened its girls’ lacrosse season Tuesday against Enloe, the school became one of just a few N.C. High School Athletic Association schools with a girls’ lacrosse team and not a boys’ team.
Deran Coe, Wake County athletic director and the former Wake Forest High athletic director, said there was interest in starting a boys team at the school in 2011, but school administrators were hesitant to add a boys team after Wake County Schools — and Wake Forest, in specific — was named in a 2010 Title IX federal discrimination complaint by the National Women’s Law Center. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in federally funded education programs.
“We didn’t want to add a men’s program without being able to add a women’s program at the same time,” Coe said.
The school began lacrosse fundamentals workouts to gauge interest in a girls’ team in 2012, but only a few athletes showed up consistently. Last year, that number rose to about 14, but when coach Laura Pierrie held an interest meeting this fall, 40 students attended.
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“I think what really got us going in the fall was that we had 22 freshmen that were interested,” Wake Forest athletics director Mike Joyner said. “We set a target that with 25 girls with interest, we would go ahead and order uniforms and stuff. In retrospect, we probably could have had a JV team as well.”
Of the 40 players on the Cougars’ team, just one — freshman Erin Cima — has lacrosse experience.
Cima scored two of the team’s three goals in the season opener against Enloe. Allison Fellenstein scored the other in the 12-3 loss.
“Lacrosse is fancy, it’s that new thing,” said Pierrie, who played at Wakefield. “For most (of our players) their first day was two weeks ago.”
Wake Forest is a part of the NCHSAA’s Conference 3, made up of Cap Eight schools.
Coe hopes the large amount of interest will help the school sustain a girls’ lacrosse program for future years.
“Those are some great numbers, so hopefully that persists,” Coe said. “Some of the programs across the county are having trouble keeping the numbers.”
Cary High, which began its program in 2006, did not have enough experienced players to safely field a team this year.
Pierrie is confident the program will grow with time.
“There’s a lot of really really strong athletes, so I see this program developing,” she said. “This year is going to be a learning year, but it’s going to develop with all of the athletes.”
Joyner has received some interest in a boys’ team at the school, and said the program would likely begin as a club team, much like the girls’ program.