For those without northeastern roots, the game of lacrosse is somewhat foreign territory. Played with long-handed sticks affixed with small nets, called the head, teams of ten battle it out on grassy fields, trying to get a small rubber ball in the opposing team’s goal. A cross between hockey, basketball, and soccer, lacrosse is a rough contact, action-packed, high-scoring game that is a blast to watch, especially in person (much like hockey). Luckily, for Palm Beachers, the very best lacrosse players in the world congregate in Boca Raton from April through July when the Florida Launch hosts its home games at FAU Stadium. The only Major League Lacrosse franchise in Florida, 2015 marks the Launch’s second year here in Boca, with hopes of making a splash, and perhaps bringing home the Steinfeld Cup for the growing fan base.
Casey Powell of the Florida Launch on a breakaway.
“We were an expansion team last year,” says veteran midfielder/attacker Casey Powell, 2014’s MLL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. “We started hot but kind of fizzled toward the end. We’ll be more of a contender this year.”
This confidence has been earned. A veteran of the league, joining MLL when it was founded in 1999, drafted number one overall out of Syracuse University, Powell has become one of the most well-known players in the sport, an ambassador if you will, earning accolades throughout his fifteen-year career (he is currently MLL’s all-time points leader) and winning two championships in the process. But now, it’s all about growth.
If you have young children getting into sports, or have ever driven by a community park, its not hard to spot kids running to and fro, lacrosse sticks in hand, winging the solid rubber ball with incredible speed and dexterity. Ten years ago, this was not the case. The foothold that lacrosse has earned, and is steadily gaining in South Florida, is due, in large part, to Powell and his MLL compatriots. Giving fans, both new and old, a chance to see the very best, in anything, inspires. And MLL is that platform.
Action packed, lacrosse is a full-contact kind of sport, as shown with the Florida Launch defense converging on the attacker.
“The growth of lacrosse down in South Florida is quite incredible,” says Powell, who has called Delray Beach home for the past five years. On top of being one of MLL’s elite players, he also operates 22 Lacrosse, essentially a training school for burgeoning lacrosse players, complete with instruction from some of the very best professional lacrosse players in the country with clinics, lessons, and tournaments, developing youth into future professional stars. “Major League Lacrosse is kind of a showcase of what the sport is all about, and the guys that represent it. It inspires younger players to take the game a little more seriously…these are the best lacrosse players in the world, and the kids here in Palm Beach County have the opportunity to see them play seven days through the summer.”
In all, there are eight franchises making up MLL, with teams dotted throughout the country (as far west as Denver), with each playing fourteen games per season (each team plays each other twice). The Launch begins its 2015 campaign in Annapolis, Maryland when they take on the Chesapeake Bayhawks on April 19. For such a young team, now just their second year in the league, the Launch has incredible upside. Joining Powell, who earned MVP in 2014, the Launch also have the 2014 Rookie of the Year, Kieran McArdle, and All-Pro Defenseman Tucker Durkin returning to the field, as well as rookies Lyle Thompson, co-Tewaaraton Award winner (college lacrosse’s Heisman Trophy), and Connor Buczek, Ivy League Player of the Year, who were drafted earlier this year.
“We will be young but will have some experience on both sides of the field,” says Powell, who likens his veteran game to “old man basketball, playing smarter not harder.” With the players making up the 2015 Launch, a veritable all-star squad of pro lacrosse, hype is starting to swell around this team. “We are going to be very exciting team to watch with the guys coming in, and we are hoping for the support of South Florida, to solidify this franchise in the area.” Who knows, the Launch could bring Palm Beach County its first professional championship trophy, which would be pretty cool.
Home games at FAU Stadium begin on Saturday, April 26, with an additional six through July (May 9 and 16, June 20 and 26, and July 3 and 25), giving fans a chance to catch some of the world’s best in an intimate stadium. “The fans are right on top of you at FAU, it’s a great experience.”
- Playoffs begin in August 1, with the Championship game scheduled for August 8 in Atlanta. For the best of the best, the All-Star Game will be held on June 13 in Houston. Tickets for home games at FAU Stadium cost $20 and $30 for individual games, ticket plans, package rates, and season tickets are also available. For more information and tickets, visit floridalaunchlacrosse.com/tickets.