While some might be unaware of its origins, the sport of lacrosse as its played in universities and schools across the country is derived from a game created centuries ago by indigenous people who lived here long before Washington D.C. was even a thought in the mind of its founder and namesake.
This historically-relevant, eye-popping pastime proliferated in various forms within Native American communities all over the continent, but the style of lacrosse the world has come to know and embrace has its roots predominantly around Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, where the six-member nations of the Iroquois Confederacy would craft wooden sticks by hand and, in what were actually religious ceremonies, engage in large-scale, physical and sometimes violent competitions that covered vast ground and could last for days.
Referred to by the Iroquois as what would interpret to “the Creator’s Game” or “the Medicine Game,” these traditional contests — more like battles — were intended to show thanks to their “Creator,” to fend off illness and encourage health in the men and boys of all ages who’d participate. Alluringly, it’s said the games were further used as a means for settling disputes between tribes.
While no other sport can claim a legendary nickname like “the little brother of war,” never lost in the game’s discussion is its lasting importance to Native American culture — finer points of which can be explored here in the District at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
As its history has been celebrated, lacrosse has blossomed into one of the most beloved college sports for both men and women — in fact, it was America’s fastest-growing sport from 2003 to 2018, according to a study conducted by the NCAA.
This spring, all eyes were on the District, as Georgetown University enjoyed one of its most historic seasons to date. Closing out the year at an impressive 15-2 and winning the Big East Conference tournament championship for the fourth time, the Hoyas men’s lacrosse team set the program record for wins by way of a remarkably explosive and efficient brand of lacrosse that only helped swell the existing buzz about head coach Kevin Warne’s group.
By the end of this past season, seven Georgetown Hoyas were voted to Inside Lacrosse’s Media All-American team, including first-team nods for goalie Owen McElroy, defender Will Bowen and midfielders Graham Bundy Jr. and Zach Geddes. Additionally, Georgetown saw two of those players — McElroy and Geddes — selected in the 2022 Premier Lacrosse League College Draft.
Despite the season ending earlier than the Hoyas and their faithful had hoped, Georgetown’s men’s lacrosse team is unquestionably on an upswing with key role players returning for 2023 and more on the way.
Within days following the Hoyas’ nail-biting 10-9 loss to the University of Delaware, news broke of two major graduate student transfers already deciding to make D.C. their destination for next spring, including former Syracuse University star Tucker Dordevic and former North Carolina standout attackman Jacob Kelly, who before joining the Tar Heels shined locally during a storied run for Maryland scholastic powerhouse Calvert Hall College High School.
And speaking of scholastic lacrosse, the District was home to another illustrious squad drawing national attention in 2022: St. John’s College High School. Entering the preseason as Inside Lacrosse’s top-ranked high school or prep school program in the land, the Cadets held the top spot all spring as they went on an amazing run, confidently amassing an undefeated 19-0 record and capping a tough schedule with a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title victory.
While it’s not typically considered a hub of lacrosse, the recent success of District area teams both at the college and scholastic levels is changing that. With the future bright for local squads, and with the Premier Lacrosse League hosting its 2022 league semifinals at Audi Field on September 11, D.C. continues to build a strong case as a nerve center of this fascinating game, where its past and present meet and its culture is thriving.
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.