In the past 50 years lacrosse has taken the U.S. by storm, with programs at the high school, college, semi-pro and pro level popping up all around the country. And so it’s only fitting that St. Louis is welcoming its very own semi-pro men’s lacrosse league, with its first home game this weekend. They call themselves the St. Louis Centurions — and they're playing a particularly exciting form of the game.
Lacrosse is an aggressive, fast-paced sport to begin with. Players literally have sticks that they can use to check other players, for starters. But box lacrosse, the style the Centurions play, kicks things up even further.
“In a nutshell, it’s lacrosse in an ice hockey rink,” says defenseman Mike Mertzlufft.
Teams play five-on-five in rinks normally reserved for hockey games, an aspect that shortens the field by 100 feet. They're not on ice, of course, but the tighter space forces players to move quicker and be more aggressive, making for a captivating game.
Another unique aspect that keeps the game moving? A shot clock.
“Once a team has possession, they have 30 seconds to take a shot on net,” says Mertzlufft. “If they don’t, there’s a change in possession.”
A “shot on goal” doesn’t mean players can simply chuck the ball in that general direction. The ball must hit the goal post or the goalie just to count as a shot, making this game exponentially more painful and, consequently, fun to watch than regular lacrosse.
The team is made up of mostly former college athletes from all around St. Louis. They play in the Continental Indoor Lacrosse League, or CILL, against teams from Chicago, Cleveland and more. Players pay out of pocket or with the assistance of sponsors to play, a detail that shows how dedicated this team is to their craft.
On the weekend of July 30, the Centurions had their season opener against the Chicago Outlaws, a team that has been playing together for almost a decade. Although the Centurions narrowly lost the game, they have a chance for redemption at their home opener, also against the Outlaws, on Saturday, August 13 in Ballwin's Queeny Park.
“We hope our community will unite behind a team representing the whole area and support us at home,” says co-owner and offensive player Brad Shearman.
The Centurions home opener will take place on Saturday, August 13 at 7p.m. at Midwest Sport Hockey in Queeny Park. Tickets are $5. For more information about the team and its schedule click here.