For the Stow-Munroe Falls lacrosse teams and their stick-wielding brethren, 2017 begins a new era.
This year marks the first year the Ohio High School Athletic Association will formally sanction the sport.
OHSAA will host a post-season tournament in May with two divisions for both boys and girls. The inaugural OHSAA lacrosse state finals will take place June 3 at Ohio Wesleyan University's Selby Stadium in Delaware.
The Bulldog boys and girls teams will each compete in Division I.
For longtime Stow boys coach Brett Sinning, this is the moment the sport has been waiting for, as it seeks to become more than a "club" sport at the high school level. Lacrosse formerly was governed by the Ohio High School Lacrosse Assocation on the boys side and the Ohio Schoolgirls Lacrosse Assocation on the girls side.
"Honestly, the ownership of the whole sport by the OHSAA has been great," Sinning said. "They knew we had our system in place. It really hasn't been much of a transition. The staff was very helpful."
According to the OHSAA, there are 136 boys lacrosse teams and 121 girls teams competing this spring. Sinning is confident OHSAA sanctioning will only help those numbers increase.
"It's going to continue to grow," Sinning said. "We're going to become more visible."
Sinning noted the Suburban League ultimately would like to support lacrosse, though only Stow, Hudson, Revere, Wadsworth, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Kent Roosevelt currently play the sport.
Sinning said Stow lacrosse will be happy to aid other league members found and grow their programs.
"Not only were we supported by local teams when we got started, but we want to continue to help other teams grow," Sinning said. "We want to really help it grow in Northeast Ohio. It's traditionally been dominated by the southern portion on the state."
However, while Sinning is happy to help the sport grow, he has decided not to continue as Stow boys' head coach. Sinning has switched roles with long-time assistant coach Cary Dyer, who is now in charge of the program.
So far, the Stow boys have successful in the Dyer era, particularly on offense, as the Bulldogs are off to a 2-0 start.
Stow played a frigid season opener March 18 at Canfield, scoring a wild 15-14 win. After trailing a 6-5 at halftime, a seven-goal third quarter led Stow to the victory.
Stow was led by a huge game from junior Chase Skall, who finished with six goals off 10 shots, with eight ground balls. Stow also got three goals rom senior Jacob Perch, while junior Declan Tubbs and senior Ethan Hanson each had two goals. Tubbs added a team-high 11 ground balls.
Senior Owen Baker and freshman Patrick Kline each had one goal.
Stow outshot the Cardinals 49-43, but lost the face-off battle 20-12.
Hunter Geight (eight saves) and Cole Washko (11 saves) split the goaltending duties for the Bulldogs.
On March 21, Stow had things on both ends of the field, as it dominated Boardman 13-3.
Stow's possession game overwhelmed the Spartans, as Stow won the face-off battle 18-2 and finished with a 40-11 lead in shots.
"Our offense is good, but we're very young," Dyer said. "I think it's going to getter at the season goes on."
After taking a 2-1 lead after one quarter, Stow blew things open with a 6-2 second quarter to take an 8-3 lead. The Bulldogs' defense then showed its prowess, as Stow shut the Spartans out in the second quarter.
Baker led the offensive charge this time for Stow, scoring four goals, including a hat trick in the second quarter. Kline scored his first career hat trick, while Perch had a great offensive game with two goals and three assists.
Tubbs was all over the field for Stow with two goals, two assists and a team-high nine ground balls. Skall and senior John Konevall each scored once for Stow.
Meanwhile, coach Mike Sheehan's girls program also is off to a 2-0 start.
The Bulldog girls opened with a triple-overtime thriller at Brecksville March 21, which Stow won 11-10.
Stow was led by four goals from junior attack Grace Deegan, while junior attacks Bayley Patterson and Erika Green each had two goals. Sophomore mid Emma Workman, junior attack Jillian Russell and senior attack Skylar Montoney each had one goal.
Workman lived up to her name, leading Stow with four ground balls and five shots on goal.
Sophomore goaltender Lucilla Perez had seven saves in the win.
On March 22, Stow played its home opener vs. Kent Roosevelt and won 8-4.
A hat trick from Deegan and two goals from Workman were augmented by single goals from Green, Russell and Workman.
Stow finished with 16 shots and 24 ground balls in the win, sophomore defender Amber Patterson vacuumed up nine ground balls.
Perez had five saves in the win.
Following the Stow boys road game with GlenOak Feb. 24 (results were not available at press time), both teams had spring break off.
The Bulldog boys return to action April 4 vs. Mentor at 7:30 p.m. at Kent State University's Dix Stadium. The Stow girls travel to Revere April 5 at 7:15 p.m.