New league introduces

Twelve-year-old Francesca Gareri (second from left) is one of 61 girls involved in the new lacrosse league for girls. Pictured with her from her left are her mother, Karen, father, Joe, and brother, Walker.

lacrosse to Malibu girls

The league is headed by Pepperdine University club lacrosse coach Paul Ramsey. He says it is a chance for girls to try something new.

By Kevin Connelly/Special to The Malibu Times

The Malibu Youth Girls Lacrosse League, which began play earlier this month, has given local girls from grades two to 10 an opportunity to learn the sport from expert coaches and staff. This is the second lacrosse league in Malibu, with one for boys having been formed in 1999.

Lacrosse, which was invented by the Iroquois Indians and is hugely popular in New York, Maryland and Virginia, is still something new to the West Coast. But Amy Crittenden, Malibu recreation supervisor and league co-organizer, said she is impressed with the interest in the new league.

“I would have been happy if 30 girls signed up, but we already have 61,” Crittenden said. “The way I look at it, it is just another sport for girls to play. Before, lacrosse was not even an option.”

Girl’s lacrosse differs slightly from men’s lacrosse. The females play with 12 players on the field at a time, including the goalie, while the males play with only 10. Also, the physical aspect of the female game is far more restrictive, with no body contact or rough play with the stick permitted as it is with the men.

This is what attracted 13-year-old Lorna McDonnell to the league. She said she was always interested in lacrosse as a spectator, but didn’t want to play herself because it was too physical.

“I think it’s really cool that they are setting up a lacrosse league,” said the home-school student. “I always thought it was fun to watch. Both of my brothers have played and I was always interested, but I didn’t want to be tackled. I think lacrosse is fun because I like to run and there are a lot of things going on at the same time.”

McDonnell said her brothers have already taught her how to cradle the ball, but is excited about learning more about the sport. She also enjoys playing soccer and said her favorite subject in school is writing.

The director of the league is the head coach of Pepperdine University’s club lacrosse team, Paul Ramsey. He has been directing lacrosse camps and running leagues since 1992. He previously spent two years as an assistant coach at Hofstra University and five years as a head coach at College of the Holy Cross.

“Lacrosse is like all sports,” Ramsey said. “It teaches the girls hand-eye coordination and sportsmanship. This program gives the girls the chance to play something new and different in case another sport was beginning to become stale for them.”

Ramsey said he was unsure as to why lacrosse was so much bigger on the East Coast than on the West. According to a recent survey done by United States Lacrosse, more people play the sport in the state of New York than in all the states west of Utah combined. But Ramsey said lacrosse continues to grow on the West Coast with programs like the one begun in Malibu

Being from California himself, Ramsey said he didn’t know much about lacrosse while growing up. He was introduced to the game in an unusual way: “I was asked to coach a women’s club team at UCSB back in 1990,” he said. “They didn’t have anybody else to do it. My first reaction was to decline because I didn’t know anything about the game. I played football and basketball just like everyone else. I signed on just to help with conditioning, but then I absolutely fell in love with it.”

Twelve-year-old Malibu resident Francesca Gareri loves sports too. The middle school student said she plays softball and soccer in addition to starting lacrosse this month.

“I just love sports,” Gareri said, attributing this passion to her dad. “I think it’s good that there is another sport for middle schoolers. I was kind of interested in lacrosse because my grandpa used to referee. It’s cool because you get to run a lot. It seems like a really tough sport.”

Gareri said this is her first real experience with lacrosse. She goes to Dodgers games with her family because she “loves the game of baseball” and she said her favorite subject in school is science.

Besides Ramsey, Gareri and her peers will be tutored by a list of experts, which includes Pepperdine lacrosse club athletes Alison Brittain, Kalynn Karnicky, Amanda Leahy and Alexis Padis.

The league runs every Monday and Thursday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and will continue until April 21. The league is still taking applicants for this session and plans on holding another session this summer. More information can be found at