Lacrosse connecting new players in Abilene
ABILENE, Texas —
There is a sport being played in Abilene that you've probably never seen before in person.
Both Hardin-Simmons and ACU have club lacrosse teams, and they travel around the state to play games.
"It's one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. right now," ACU player/coach Andrew Thompkins said.
On a chilly Saturday night, the portable bleachers were filled with fans and interested onlookers as HSU and ACU faced off in their final game of the season.
Most of the competitors had never even held a lacrosse stick before joining their respective teams.
"Not a lot of people know about it. It's very foreign and it takes a lot of practice," said Thompkins, who played lacrosse growing up in Austin and has been playing for ACU for the past four years.
"It's been hard to get people involved in the program, but we basically have a lot of friends playing against each other that have played football or baseball."
Keith Plantier, who started the club team at HSU, echoed the struggle of getting college students to try out a sport they have most likely never played before.
"We have 15 players right now, and it's a struggle. I've picked up a couple of soccer players, and a basketball player."
Lacrosse is popular in the northeast part of the U.S., but is expanding in other spots, especially metropolitan areas such as Dallas and Houston. Thompkins and Plantier described lacrosse as a combination of soccer and hockey with similar offensive schemes as found in basketball.
The two schools are a part of the Lone Star Alliance and compete in a division with club teams from Oklahoma State, Tarleton State, Dallas Baptist, Tulsa, and UT-Dallas.
The Hardin-Simmons club started in 2017, and ACU was there to help the Cowboys the program get off their feet.
"They ran us into the ground in their practices," said Plantier. "They let us practice with them while we were trying to build a team. We had small numbers last year and they helped with that. They let us borrow equipment until we could get up and running."
"We're here as a family. We want to help each other out," said Thompkins. "We want to grow lacrosse in west Texas. I kindly landed some resources and just gave my time."
ACU defeated HSU, 10-9 in overtime to win the President's Cup, a trophy that Plantier created for the rivalry. However, these two schools are more like freinds with a common goal.
"They've been a great adversary and have been challenging us to keep up with our work," said Thompkins. "It's been really cool to see them start their own program within the past few years and grow so fast."
Plantier said Hardin-Simmons will be offering a lacrosse class that will work as a physical education credit for students in the fall of 2018. Both teams are always in need of players. If you are a student at either ACU or HSU, and are interested in trying out lacrosse you can contact them with the links below.