PLAINFIELD – Over the past four years, the Plainfield lacrosse moms have scored a huge victory.
As a result, Plainfield School District 202 has approved lacrosse as one of its IHSA sports beginning in the spring. The boys and girls teams will be district co-ops, with Plainfield North the base and students from all four Plainfield schools eligible to join.
The boys will begin in 2018 with varsity and junior varsity teams. The girls, on the recommendation of the lacrosse club board, only will have junior varsity the first season. The number of players presently in the program does not warrant two girls teams, but it’s the district’s hope that varsity will be added the following year.
“It’s been a relatively long journey, a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” said Jen Barangan, president of the boys side on the Plainfield lacrosse board.
“I started working on this in the fall of 2012. My husband, Jay, and my two boys and daughter played lacrosse. There were club programs around, why not Plainfield? We started to talk to all the [athletic directors], and we got club approval for 2013 boys and girls sides.”
The club got off to a good start, and things have progressed from there.
“The first year we had five boys out of 17 who actually had played lacrosse, and we went undefeated,” Barangan said. “We call them the ‘Original 17.’ The last of the ‘Original 17’ group graduated this year.”
Barangan said there were 33 players on the boys side at the end of this past spring season – 15 from North, 10 from East, seven from South and one from Central. The boys played as the Plainfield Panthers.
The board president for the Plainfield Cheetahs girls side, Troy Monroe, said, “Fifty percent or more of the girls are from Plainfield North. A good chunk from Plainfield East, a few are from South and one is from Central.”
North athletic director Ron Lear is excited to get the new sport started.
“This has been approved, and we are in charge,” Lear said. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids in the district. The kids with lacrosse as their only sport will feel more a part of the school now.
“People worry this could take away from other spring sports, but I don’t see it. Maybe we will get athletes from other sports joining and becoming two- or three-sport athletes. And don’t forget, we are just the host school. We’re just the host schools. It’s a co-op among the four schools.”
Lear said the district athletic directors had opportunities to see the club teams play in the spring, and they were impressed.
“They played at South a couple times and invited the ADs,” he said. “I went over one night and watched half, and went another night and watched an entire game. It was interesting to see what’s there.”
Why not get involved?
“I’m not afraid of a new challenge,” Lear said. “I’ll have to get schedules made and coaches hired. Minooka is the only other school in the conference with the sport, but scheduling won’t be a big problem. It’s 18 games and one tournament, or 17 and two. My intent is to get a full schedule and go forward from there.”
Lear noted the coaches could be approved as early as the August school board meeting. Monroe has been the girls head coach and Jay Barangan, Jen’s husband, has been the boys head coach.
“There was pressure on us from other school districts starting lacrosse, and our board members went to our school board to move the program forward,” Monroe said. “Basically, we are operating under a parent-funded model. The district wants us to stay financially neutral. We parents are on board. We agreed to keep helping fund the program.”
Jay Barangan said starting the sport on the high school level has been an ongoing effort.
“We moved to Chicago from California 18 years ago,” he said. “I have coached boys and girls at Benet Academy. We’ve been trying to start lacrosse in this area. I played at St. Ignatius in San Francis and at UC-Davis. I moved here and found nothing here. We’ve been trying to start it from a high school perspective for quite some time.”
The Barangans all are into lacrosse.
“Our daughter Katrina, who is 21, played at Benet and then transferred to Plainfield North,” Jay said. “She was playing at Grand Canyon and now is at Belmont. Our son Zachary is 20 and at the U of I. He played freshman year at Benet and then transferred to Plainfield North.
“Our son Ethan is a senior at Culver Military Academy in Indiana, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation, and will be going to West Point next year. He played one year for Plainfield lacrosse and got recruited by Culver after freshman year.”
He said Jen Barangan was a driving force behind Plainfield getting lacrosse.
“My wife is the one that really pushed to get this done,” he said.
Jen Barangan credited Dan Hemmens, a teacher at North, and Russ Young, who teaches in the Bolingbrook district, lacrosse board members Kim Toman and Beth Kuykedall, Plainfield East athletic director Tim Torkelson and Craig Brown, district administrator for the Plainfield School District, with huge assists in making the sport a reality in Plainfield.
“Some lacrosse moms got it going and kept it going, but if not for all those others that i mentioned, we would not be here now,” Jen said. “Being a club gave us leverage to play other high schools and really get our program going.
“Now, Ron Lear stepped in and said if you need an AD to pilot this through, he would do it. I’m looking forward to him working with us.”
Lear said he wants to have a head coach and an assistant in both the boys and girls programs.
“We want to remain a top-notch program in all our sports,” he said. “We want the lacrosse players to have a positive experience.”
A question to be answered later is whether home games will be played on the North football field, where the new turf is being installed this summer. Regardless, Lear promises a setting that lacrosse players from the four Plainfield schools will be proud to call home.