CHASKA, Minn. – It was an exciting Sunday afternoon at the Chaska Community Center, as the Minnesota Swarm wrapped up its sixth season of the Youth Box League (YBL) with four championship games touting the best and brightest youth box lacrosse players across the metro area. The championships capped off yet another successful YBL campaign and the inaugural season for the YBL Elite League.
Sunday’s final game was arguably the most thrilling, as Anoka defeated Woodbury United 8-1 to capture the first-ever YBL Elite Championship in the U15 division. The Tornadoes’ potent offense, led by a four-goal performance from Brandon Hudachek, was able to score early and often en route to their title-clinching victory. Anoka goalie Tyler Perelman played strong between the pipes, keeping Woodbury off the board until late in the third and final period.
Despite the final score, the game was a special end to the YBL’s first Elite League season, as both teams showcased the exciting style of real box lacrosse that the new divisions offer. Partnering with the Box Lacrosse Association of America (BLA), the national governing body of box lacrosse in the U.S., the YBL gave teams in the U13 and U15 Elite Leagues the opportunity to play a faster, more competitive brand of lacrosse seen professionally in the NLL. The implementation of a 30-second shot clock, custom long-sleeved jerseys by Projoy, mandatory kidney and bicep pads and legal cross-checks all set aside the Elite League from the YBL’s traditional Developmental divisions. With all of the improvements, the inaugural Elite season was a big hit with players and coaches.
“I loved it, I thought it was more realistic,” Perelman said. “With the shot clock, the checking and stuff like that, it was like being at a Swarm game – very professional.”
“It changes the way you play the game,” added Anoka U15 Elite coach Greg Fleischman. “For all the growth that they had and for everything they had to learn, the season went really well.”
Prior to the Elite League game, three YBL Developmental divisions crowned their 2014 Champions, during a day that was a celebration for the growth of box lacrosse in Minnesota.
In the game’s first game, Edina White earned the U11 Developmental championship with a 13-4 win against the U11 Free Agent team. Next, in the battle of the Skippers, Minnetonka Black bested Minnetonka White 6-3 for the U13 Developmental title after breaking open a 3-3 tie with a late push. In the third and final Developmental game, Minnetonka rode a hat trick from Blake Dickson to defeat Wayzata 10-4 for the U15 championship.
While only four teams finished the season as champions, each of the nearly 50 teams participating in the YBL reaped the benefits of playing competitive box lacrosse; benefits that according to their coaches they won’t find in field lacrosse.
“They definitely learned a quicker type of play than they would in field lacrosse,” Fleischman explained. “It helped them with their stick skills, their footwork, their defensive body play versus just chasing the sticks.”
“It’s a good crossover [from field lacrosse],” added Minnetonka U15 Developmental coach Josh Yue. “It teaches them how to protect their stick a little bit more and how to control the ball in tight spaces and stuff like that. It’s good to get both aspects; starting with the field game and then coming in here and having to round out their in-tight play.” While the coaches relished the X’s and O’s about playing the box game, the players themselves just enjoyed the chance to be part of a team and have fun doing it.
“I thought the league was fantastic,” Perelman explained. “It teaches us to work as a team and to work as hard as we can for our teams.”
Adding to the fun were the players and staff of the Swarm, who were on hand to make sure the Chaska Community Center had the same infectious vibe as The Hive. Swarm players Shayne Jackson, Alex Crepinsek, Corbyn Tao, and assistant coach Aime Caines all hung out with players on the benches and in the penalty box, and music and public-address announcements gave the games an especially authentic feel. The Swarm’s involvement in the YBL, according to Caines, will only help the league continue to grow in the future, even though the successful championships on Sunday proved that the event has already grown significantly since its inception in 2009.
“Being in the community and being able to promote the sport and see the product at such a high level in Minnesota in such a short period of time is amazing,” Caines explained. “Being part of a professional lacrosse team just helps the stability of the YBL and hopefully it keeps growing.”
Presenting sponsors of the YBL in 2014 are Blue Line Medical Services and Anderson Insurance and Investment Agency. Supporting partners include Lax All-Stars, Under Armour, EPOCH Lacrosse, Aspire Beverage Company, Play Like Pro Lacrosse Camp, East Coast Dyes, Boddam goalie gear, Burger Moe’s and Holiday Inn I-94 East.
FOLLOW the YBL on Twitter @SwarmYBL and LIKE the Youth Box League on Facebook at facebook.com/playmnbox. For more information on the YBL, please visit mnboxlacrosse.com or contact YBL Coordinator Ross Chicantek at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on how your local association can play REAL BOX LACROSSE, visit the Box Lacrosse Association of America (BLA) at blalax.com.