ROBBINSVILLE, NJ – A varsity boys lacrosse team is coming to Wardlaw-Hartridge School and Union Catholic Regional High School.
Following a seven-month fight to create a joint program between the Middlesex and Union County private schools, the NJSIAA Executive Committee voted in overwhelming fashion to allow Wardlaw-Hartridge and Union Catholic to form a co-op program at their monthly meeting on January 11.
Wardlaw-Hartridge athletic director Karl Miran this vote allows a new group of students the opportunity to experience high school lacrosse at the varsity level.
“We think the number of interested W-H and UC students will grow in future years, as they see the game,” Miran said. “We also know that the speed and skill of a lacrosse game makes it a great spectator sport. We look forward to having another opportunity (alongside baseball, softball, and our other spring sports) to bring members of our community together as spectators and supporters.”
This was the second attempt at creating a joint partnership in boys lacrosse. A previous attempt was shot down by the NJSIAA Policy Committee due to Union Catholic’s standing as a Non-Public Group A school, the state’s largest classification for private schools. Miran said the schools’ appeal of the Policy Committee was based on the size of the schools.
Traditionally, the NJSIAA has prohibited larger schools to enter into partnerships with other schools, specifically public schools who are classified as Group 4 and non-publics who are Group A. However, Miran said if Union Catholic were a public school they would fall into the Group 2 classification.
The Executive Committee approved the motion with a contingency that the partnership lasts for only two years, after which the teams would have to form their own teams.
The squad will be based out of Wardlaw-Hartridge School. Both the Greater Middlesex County Conference and the Union County Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the respective conferences of each school, approved the merger, however, the team will play an independent schedule. Miran said there was concern by GMC officials.
“The GMC had legitimate concerns about the precedent it might set to have a team that included students from a non-league school eligible for the league championship,” Miran said. “For us, the opportunity to play varsity games is the big prize for this year. At this point, it appears that every GMC school has agreed to play us, as well as some other schools such as Gill St. Bernard's.”
According to Miran, the team will also have the opportunity to play in the Prep A championship against schools like Pingry and Lawrenceville Prep. They will also be eligible to play in the Non-Public A state tournament with schools such as Delbarton. Neither tournament is a given, however, as Miran doesn’t want to hinder the team’s development by playing in tournaments that the players aren’t ready for.
Wardlaw-Hartridge previously had a sub-varsity boys lacrosse program beginning in 2014. After competing for two years, the school tried to move up to a varsity program last year, but didn't have enough players to field a complete team. This opportunity allows for a new group of players participate in one of the nation’s fastest growing sports.
David Lisooey will serve as the program’s head coach. Lisooey was the assistant coach for Wardlaw-Hartridge’s two junior varsity seasons. He played college lacrosse at Division III powerhouse Franklin & Marshall.