Girls lacrosse team forming in AF - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

Girls lacrosse team forming in AF

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Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 4:26 pm, Tue Apr 5, 2011.

Emily Miller is at it again - championing a sport that she can't seem to shake.

Lacrosse is a sport played mostly on the East Coast and is a club sport supported sporadically, mostly in the East Valley, at the high school level in Arizona, but there are very little opportunities for young girls to gain exposure to it.

So Miller, 23, is setting out to correct that.

"It's such a great sport, but it just isn't played much in this state, especially at the youth level," Miller said. "We are hoping to change that and get young girls involved."

It starts with four free clinics, including one Saturday from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Anderson Elementary, located at 1350 N. Pennington Drive, in Chandler.

Equipment will be provided. The basics (cradling, passing and defense) will be taught. The clinics are for girls in third through eighth grade.

The focus on the set age group is because Miller, along with her business partner and sister, Kelley, is also starting a youth program called Wildfire Lacrosse.

"I never got the chance to play as a kid and we had to start our own team when I was in high school at Gilbert," she said. "It made me think about how great it would have been to have a chance when I was a kid to get the basics of the game down instead of learning the game at the high school level."

The clinics are designed to do just that and then become a feeder system for the competitive teams that she hopes to form in Ahwatukee Foothills and Chandler.

"The clinic is perfect for the girls that are hesitant and want to test it out," said Miller, who coached the Corona del Sol girls team to a state title in 2008. "Most people haven't heard of it or they have but don't know what it is exactly and they almost definitely haven't played. This will give them a chance and the parents can get some face-to-face time with the coaches so they know we are not just some rag-tag outfit."'

Miller, who played on Arizona State's club team, has a history of starting programs in the sport.

In addition to helping start the Gilbert High program, she led the Aztecs, ran the former Ahwatukee Monsoon youth program and had the opportunity to play in college at Tiffin University in Ohio with her sister.

"I was calling around trying to get my sister a scholarship and Tiffin was just starting their program," she said. "When the coach (Mark Schreiber) found out that I had a year of eligibility left he asked me to come be a player-coach.

"It was an incredible opportunity to play with my sister and prove to myself that I could play at the collegiate level."

Her one regret was leaving the Monsoon and handing over the program to another coach who let it dwindle away.

So now Miller, a Chandler resident, is trying to rebuild something legitimate in the Ahwatukee Foothills area.

"It's a grass roots project," Miller said. "It's a new business and there are going to be some growing pains, like the schedule for example. It will be a little bit hodgepodge because there are not many teams we can play.

"But we are going to grow fast because Ahwatukee is a hotbed for lacrosse for boys and there is no reason it can't be the same way for girls."

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Mary O'Grady said her daughter, Caitlin, had a great time being coached by Miller with the Monsoon before playing with Corona del Sol.

"She loves the game and has made some wonderful friends," O'Grady said. "I've loved the mentoring from coaches like Emily Miller, who teach and inspire the girls, and I enjoy seeing my daughter so excited about her team and her game."

There are two other teams - Desert StiX and Lax Locker - in Scottsdale to go along with the two teams that Miller hopes to form with the Ahwatukee Monsoon and Chandler Drought when the season starts Feb. 14.

"I am really hoping this becomes what I think it can be," Miller said. "When I came back from Ohio I had to figure out exactly what I wanted to do and there is nothing like coaching lacrosse for me.

"Each time a player scores, makes a good pass or makes a save it is like everyone else's accomplishments are also mine because I helped them. That's when I know this is what I am supposed to be doing."

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
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  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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