The Swarm’s Youth Box League (YBL) spring season presented by Summit Orthopedics and United Hospital came to a close last Thursday at Hastings Civic Arena with a trio of games. (Earlier in the week, Edina defeated St. Michael-Albertville 2-1 in the U9 Division.)
The U11 matchup between Maple Grove Crimson and St. Michael-Albertville provided quite the opener to the night – with an unlikely comeback.
Maple Grove Crimson led 5-2 at one point in the second half until St. Michael-Albertville racked up three-straight goals to knot the score at 5-5 at the end of the 3rd Quarter. St. Michael-Albertville kept its momentum going into the fourth and won 9-7 to cap off the second half surge.
“Comebacks have happened a couple of times this year actually,” St. Michael-Albertville coach Ryan Browning said. “We were down by two goals in two important games earlier this season against teams we were surprised that we could beat. This was the third time we’ve come from behind like that and it was pretty special to see.”
The atmosphere was raucous, with fans from both sides zealously cheering on their respective teams. Passionate supporters have become a staple for the YBL.
“One thing we’ve noticed from our parents all season long is that whether we win or lose, they’re always cheering and supporting our players,” Browning said. “We felt like an underdog this year being a smaller community playing against these bigger names and to have our parents there when we’re down has been huge.”
The second game featured another underdog team overcoming adversity and winning the championship. The U13 Hastings squad came into the playoffs as the 15th seed in the league and faced an undefeated Woodbury team in the final.
Regular season records notwithstanding, Hastings went on a scoring streak in the second and third quarters to garner a 9-4 advantage heading into the fourth period. Woodbury fought back, but could not overcome an underdog Hastings team that eventually won 11-6.
The final contest of the night was between Oakdale and Chaska-Chanhassen from the U15 division. Oakdale’s tough defense held Chaska-Chanhassen to just three goals and was victorious 9-3.
Currently the largest youth box league in the country, the YBL had its most successful season yet in spring of 2013, with attendance rising across the board.
“Last year we had about 900 kids participating in the YBL in the spring and now it’s more than 1,100,” Swarm YBL Coordinator Mike Holvig said. “With that increase in attendance we grew from 53 teams to 65 this year.”
More attendance has allowed the league to add new age divisions this season, which more accurately assigns players to teams based on age instead of grade level. The YBL currently features the following age divisions: U9, U11, U13 and U15.
“The support that we’ve gotten from the YBL has been incredible,” Browning said. “Our kids have had a great time and you can just tell with the way they play. A number of them have now chosen lacrosse over their typical sports because of the fun they’ve had with the YBL.”
Holvig added, “You can tell what kids have been a part of the program for a year or two, you can see their development and they’re improving their skills. It’s important to establish this sport at a young age to help it grow. At this point, these kids can now play lacrosse year-round in Minnesota.”
In addition to expanding the league’s age divisions, the YBL also added weekly player clinics in 2013 in an effort to help teach the proper fundamentals of the sport. Participants received top-notch instruction during the clinics from Swarm players such as Ryan Benesch, Evan Kirk, Shayne Jackson, Alex Crepinsek and Ryan Masters.
“These clinics are great way for the kids to get hands-on experience from professional box players,” Holvig said. “The kids are then able to implement the tips and concepts that they’ve learned into their YBL games. With this being a new sport in the area, receiving expert advice and coaching goes a long way.”
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