Maryland and Denver played an exhibition with hopes to spur the sport's popularity at area colleges.
TUKWILA — The last meaningful lacrosse match Cole Nordstrom played in his home state was 2010, when his Bellevue High School club team won a state title in his senior year.
Nordstrom plays midfield for the University of Denver, and on Saturday he and the Pioneers topped Maryland 12-9 in an exhibition played in front of 3,589 at Starfire Sports Stadium in the state’s first game between Division I teams.
“I always imagined being able to play in front of my friends and family back home,” Nordstrom said. “Being able to actually do this now that I’m playing on a Division I team, playing against a team like Maryland, this is a dream come true.”
The event, dubbed the Seatown Classic, matched two premier college programs. Maryland has played in the past two NCAA championship matches; Denver has played in five of the past seven NCAA tournaments, reaching the quarterfinals last year.
Division I schools that sponsor men’s and women’s teams are nearly all in the East. USC and Oregon sponsor women’s teams that play on the NCAA level. Washington and Seattle University host club teams for men and women.
Denver coach Bill Tierney coached at Princeton for 22 years and won six NCAA titles before moving west in 2009. Do he and other coaches want to see more Div. I teams in the west?
“Absolutely we do,” Tierney said. “That was part of my call to come west. The ones we keep hearing rumors about — USC, Minnesota, maybe SMU and some of these places — when the dam breaks, it’s really going to break.”
Along with Nordstrom, Denver’s roster also includes Skyline grad Jack Pruitt, a freshman midfielder who missed Saturday’s match due to a broken scapula he suffered in practice last week. Maryland featured Curtis grad Landon Carr, who scored a third-period goal.
Tierney said the biggest difference between player development and recruiting in the West as opposed to back East is the level of competition that premier players get at the high-school level. But, he said, that’s changing.
“Yesterday after our practice I asked one of the (local) kids when they started playing,” Tierney said. “I was thinking he would say just a year or two years ago. He said he started when he was 6.
“One time today Cole makes a great play, dodges through a couple of guys, and I just kind of smiled. That’s what this thing is all about, watching a kid from here do that out there.”
Denver goalie Ryan LaPlante, who scored his team’s first goal on a coast-to-coast sprint, was named player of the game. Kevin Cooper led Maryland, scoring twice.