Girls lacrosse

High school girls lacrosse celebrated its 25th season in Howard County this spring. (File photo, / June 6, 2012)

The history of a tree is told by its rings. The history of girls lacrosse is told by the rules and equipment.

Were you of the wooden-stick-kilt-no-boundaries era? Or did you wear shorts and use a molded head stick? Were you a first home or an attack player? Was the ball white or yellow? What about goggles and the restraining line? Did a skirt replace your team's kilt or shorts?

"I played with boundaries in college but never with goggles, which is crazy to me now thinking back," said Megan (Greene) Gittermann, who coaches at her alma mater, Oakland Mills. "The evolution of the rules has been interesting. I remember not having a restraining line and that is completely foreign to the girls that I coach."

In 25 years of Howard County girls lacrosse there have been numerous rules changes, but the basis for all is safety. Lacrosse has two different versions — a boys version and a girls version. The name's the same, but the rules are different.

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Picking up sticks

Although Howard County boys have had high school teams since 1975, the girls had to fight for their right to play, and Title IX, which turns 40 later this month, played a role in the game finally getting the school system's approval. Title IX is the federal law that requires gender equity for boys and girls in education programs that receive federal funds.

While Gail Purcell and other coaches had been pushing for girls lacrosse for years, they kept being turned down, including in December 1985 when the county sports committee (made up of high school principals and athletic directors) voted 15-1 against a proposal to add girls lacrosse to the sports menu.

"I feel like I'm beating my head against a wall," Purcell said at the time. "I understand there are problems with getting new sports, but I believe if it were a guys' sport, it would be passed."

Field limitation was given as one of the biggest reasons in the rejection. The county offered seven spring high school sports at the time. There was baseball and softball, boys tennis and girls tennis, and boys and girls track teams. But no girls sport was comparable to boys lacrosse.

The interest was there, however.

"P.J. (Kesmodel) and Gail and I were doing what we could to get it going," Glenelg coach Ginger Kincaid said. "We put it wherever we could. The rec council backed clinics and the leagues. I remember taking kids to Howard High and teaching them how to cradle."

By the spring of 1986, 140 girls had joined a league sponsored by the Department of Recreation and Parks.

"The biggest thing was when we put it in the summer leagues and when we got Hero's going," Kincaid said "We worked hard to get Hero's going and show a need in the county" for girls lacrosse.

With a Title IX ace card in their back pocket, Kesmodel, a guidance counselor at Mt. Hebron, and Purcell, a teacher at Centennial, applied pressure on the school board. Adding girls lacrosse would nearly double the number of girls participating in spring sports, they said.

As the 1986-87 school year began, the sports committee voted unanimously to include girls lacrosse as a county sport beginning in the spring of 1988.

A jump start

The first official high school girls lacrosse game was still months away when Howard County's Hero's All-Star team made a definitive statement by winning the 1987 Hero's Summer All-Star Lacrosse Classic. The local girls upset the Baltimore All-Stars, 8-7, and then routed Anne Arundel, 12-7, in the final.

"They were shocked. How could we possibly put together a team that didn't play in the (private school league) and win the game?" Kincaid said. "There were comments that we had corrupted the game."

The Hero's chances were improved by the offensive play of Jennifer Stone, a McDonogh student who scored 12 goals in the two games, and the 35 saves that Mt. Hebron's Jill Marple made. Marple already had a full scholarship to play field hockey and lacrosse at Temple University, but she never played lacrosse in high school.

The first year