Growing into the sport of lacrosseCloquet’s Tanner Fritsinger recently won all-state recognition as a defender with the Duluth Chargers varsity lacrosse team and would like to see a Carlton County program start. Meanwhile the reservation's lacrosse camp and program continue to grow.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
Cloquet’s Tanner Fritsinger won a statewide honor in a sport that he hadn’t planned on playing as a schoolboy.
Fritsinger recently won all-state recognition as a defender with the Duluth Chargers varsity lacrosse team from the Minnesota Boys Scholastic Lacrosse Association.
The Chargers play in the league’s Varsity North conference and are made up of players from all the Lake Superior Conference schools except for Ashland and Proctor, with Esko added in.
The Chargers ran the table in their league this year, finishing 6-0-0 in league play against Grand Rapids, Fargo, Proctor, Grand Cities (N.D.) and Brainerd, and won the MBSLA’s third-place trophy in a 14-13 win over Becker on June 8 at Minneapolis Washburn High School.
Yet Fritsinger played just about every sport except lacrosse as a youth.
“I played lots of sports,” he said. “I played soccer to seventh grade, hockey until last year and football in middle school. But lacrosse has elements of all of them and I really liked it.”
The Chargers play field lacrosse, as opposed to the box lacrosse style of Major League Lacrosse and the Minnesota Swarm.
“I like field a lot better,” Fritsinger said. “You think a lot more. I know some of the guys went to one or two Swarm games this year, but I’ve never been to one. Field [lacrosse] is more fun.”
Fritsinger was attracted to the game after watching his sister Camille play for the Duluth Nighthawks as a seventh-grader.
“No offense, but watching the girls’ game wasn’t as exciting to me as watching the boys with more contact and physicality,” he said. “I was really into hockey at the time and lacrosse is like hockey on feet so that appealed to me. It looked cool.”
So cool, in fact, that Fritsinger was one of three defenders to earn all-state honors. This season he played in all 15 of the Chargers’ games, including three playoff games, and helped his team to a 14-1-0 overall record and contributed two assists.
And now he’s got a sport that appeals to his interest in the sports he’s played before.
“With a lot of kids that play other sports, the draw of lacrosse is that it can help you cross-train,” Fritsinger said. “The footwork in lacrosse and football is similar, you need vision like you have in hockey, and the running is very much like soccer. There’s a lot of running. It’s a bunch of sports thrown into one and it’s a fast game.”
When he joined the Chargers, he was assigned to defense, a position at which he eventually came to excel.
“They thought I’d be tall so they made me play defense. At the end, I only wound up 5’7” and I’m probably the smallest D out there,” he said. “I liked it on defense, though, and stayed there.”
Fritsinger will attend Minnesota-State Mankato this fall to study business, but has already spoken with organizers of the school’s club lacrosse team.
“They have a program that’s about five years old there,” he said. “They have gotten a lot better, and should only get better in the future.”
And with an all-state defender playing for them, that improvement might come a little more quickly.
Reservation lacrosse program continues to grow
The lacrosse program on the Fond du Lac Reservation is as popular as ever, with the fourth annual summer lacrosse camp scheduled for July 22-25.
Co-organizer Josh Baker says nearly 60 players from around the state are registered and the event is about as large as it can realistically get.
“We had 56 players last year which is the maximum capacity for where we play,” Baker said.
The camp is held on the football field behind the Fond du Lac Head Start building near the Reservation Business Center. Last year the camp drew players from Red Lake, Mille Lacs, Lac Courte Oreilles, United Nation in Green Bay, Little Earth and Fond du Lac as well as players from Duluth.
“This year we want White Earth and Prairie Island involved and they should send kids, too,” Baker said.
The players don’t have a formal team, but last year played a “homegrown lacrosse” game at Madeline Island.
“We aren’t to the point where we have a competitive team but that game was interesting,” Baker said.
The traditional Ojibwe play of the game is different than modern field lacrosse or box lacrosse.
“The Ojibwe version uses a much shorter stick and the basket is a circle,” Baker said. “The ball is made out of hardened wood.”
Oh, and there’s another difference.
“As long as you don’t murder your brother-in-law, everything’s pretty much fair game,” he said. “You don’t try to hurt anybody but you can tackle, you can drop your stick and you can take people down. There isn’t a goal, there’s a pole set up and the fields can be quite large. Oh, and there’s no pads.”
While the camp exists to teach the rules for high school field lacrosse, Baker said the variations and styles of the game can appeal to a wide range of players.
The players also follow box lacrosse and the Minnesota Swarm closely.
“We’ve had season tickets the last two years,” he said. “We also made it to UMD for a couple of games with their club team and we’ve worked on our camp with the Minneapolis Police and the Swarm as part of a joint project.”
“The kids that play tend to stay with it,” Baker added. “Anybody who gets into it really enjoys it and the aspects of the game that mirror sports like football, basketball and hockey. There are aspects of those games that are definitely in lacrosse.”
However, there’s one thing the lacrosse campers could really use.
“We are absolutely looking for a coach,” he said. “The work Brian (co-coordinator Brian Bosto) and I do building the team and setting up the camp means we could use someone dedicated to teaching the game that is qualified.”
For more information, contact Baker at 218-310-9140.