JANESVILLE

The Janesville Bluebirds are set to open their inaugural season of girls lacrosse Friday night.

The Janesville Craig, Janesville Parker, Milton and Beloit co-op club team hosts Middleton at 5 p.m. at the Janesville Youth Football complex.

Club President Ron Williams said even if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate and the season opener is put on hold for a fourth time, the Bluebirds are excited to join the mix of spring sports offered at the high school level.

“We think it’s a great opportunity for the girls,” Williams said. “Interest in the sport is growing, and we’ve got 26 girls out this year, which is a great number for our first year of varsity competition.

“We’ve got enough girls to have a varsity and junior varsity team and play a full schedule. Unfortunately, like the other spring sports, we can’t do much with snow on the ground.”

Williams is hopeful and believes that within five years, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) will certify lacrosse for both boys and girls as a sanctioned sport. At least 32 teams are needed to sanction a sport, and Williams said they’re getting close to that number for both boys and girls.

Boys and girls playing for this year’s teams in Janesville can still earn a varsity letter even though lacrosse is still considered a club sport.

The girls lacrosse program in Janesville started two years ago at the middle school level and competed at the junior varsity level last season. Lori Reddy is head coach of the girls team, which will compete in the Badgerland Conference that also features teams from Verona, Middleton, Waunakee, Stoughton and Oregon, along with the co-op teams Edgewood/Madison West and East/La Follette.

The fee to play club lacrosse in Janesville is $350 per player. Williams said the Janesville Lacrosse Club pays the remaining expenses, including transportation, officials and other miscellaneous costs.

“We’re a fully funded organization,” Williams said of the JLC. “We have fundraisers and do other things to raise money to give the kids the opportunity to play.

“And even though the Janesville School District does not help with our expenses because we’re not a sanctioned WIAA sport, they’ve been good about helping us with getting other things like a reduced price on transportation, which is big.”

With snow on the ground and a limited use of indoor facilities at their disposal, the Bluebirds are forced to practice wherever space is available. Monday, the girls team practiced in the St. Patrick’s gymnasium, while the boys team was at Marshall Middle School. Janesville’s Youth Optimist Park is the designated home field and practice site.

Williams said the majority of schools in the Badgerland Conference offer lacrosse starting as early as the age of eight. The goal is for Janesville to do the same.

Up until two years ago, if a girl wanted to play lacrosse in Janesville, she had to play on the boys team. That meant a much different style than the girls game because of the physical contact and much rougher play. That’s different in the girls game. Hitting is not allowed.

When the Bluebirds finally do get their season underway, Williams believes the team can be competitive despite it’s first year of existence.

“We’ve got some very good athletes on the team, and a few girls like Grace Runaas that have played the game for awhile,” Williams said. “We’re just excited to get things underway. Hopefully, that’s sooner than later.”

John Barry is a sports writer for The Gazette. Email him at jbarry@gazettextra.com

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