SUAMICO, Wis. (WFRV) – 694 days.
That’s the amount of time the Bay Port lacrosse team had to wait for its chance to get back on the high school turf, sidelined by the pandemic with the rest of their Wisconsin competitors in 2020.
But when the Pirates finally did toe the white line, the euphoric feeling made the long wait almost all worth it.
“We were counting the days and it was amazing because we didn’t get to touch an actual high school game for two years,” senior Jordan Herm said. “It was crazy to get out there again and feel the energy around our team and mesh together again.”
The anticipation, however, started weeks before that. Bay Port finally got to practicing this spring, and for some of these athletes, it was the first time they’d gotten a chance to even work out in several months.
“They were excited, they were really ready to get back on the field,” head coach Jason Chaplin said. “The first practice was awesome and the guys all coming together, having a good time.”
The opening workouts – which Chaplin said garnered great interest and attention – set the stage for Bay Port’s strong start to the season. The Pirates are 5-0 in the Bay Valley Conference.
As the team pursues its first league title since 2015, younger players are leaning on the seniors for guidance and steady leadership.
“Our team’s coming together and we’re clicking at the right time,” senior Sean Samels said. “We’ve got a big stretch ahead of us and we’ve got four conference games coming up, and hopefully we can keep on clicking and have some success.”
But the high standards don’t stop at the senior class. Even the younger players knew what kind of team was showing up in 2021.
“We were expecting to be good,” freshman Tyler Gabrielse said. “We put in the work and we came to play.”
Outside of the results on their own field this year, the Pirates and their coaching staff are intent on growing the game of lacrosse in the Northeast Wisconsin.
Since starting the club team in 2002, Bay Port has seen five more high school programs formed in the Green Bay Area. With the fortification of the Green Bay Youth Program, the lacrosse community is hoping for greater numbers and more competition to strengthen the sport.
One other factor working in the sport’s favor is the interest from non-lacrosse players as they enter the high school level.
“We rely on kids coming out that have never played before,” Chaplin said. “I usually get somewhere between 5-10 football players, a couple soccer players that want to try.
“It’s the fastest growing youth sport in the country, and in our area it continues to grow.”
The focus to grow the game fosters in the younger players as well, and Bay Port’s seniors see their roles as ambassadors for the game.
“It’s great to grow,” Samels said. “I know the sport’s been growing in the Midwest, in our community, our Green Bay Youth Program, De Pere, all those guys. They’re doing a great job and they’re producing the high school players, so it’s great to see.”
“There’s a ton of kids now,” Herm said. “There’s even a girls youth program now, and there wasn’t that when I started seven years ago.
“You just gotta get it out there, that’s the biggest thing.”
For a sport on the rise like lacrosse, the flame is only getting brighter – and Bay Port is there to carry the torch.