When Jason Montoya played high-school lacrosse in the early 2000s, it took a combination of five high schools to field a team. The team’s name fell under Garfield High School, which Montoya attended, but they also needed players from O’Dea, Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences and others nearby.

Over 15 years later, cases such as Montoya’s have become rare as lacrosse continues to grow in popularity in the Northwest. More high schools are offering lacrosse in some capacity, and youth opportunities as well as “select-team” opportunities are becoming higher-level and more widespread.

“The growth out here has just been massive, from the time I played until now, both on the boys and the girls side,” said Montoya, now the boys varsity coach at Eastlake High School. “It’s just been really cool to see just how significantly bigger it [is].” 

This weekend Seattle will host its first major lacrosse event in almost two decades when the Premier Lacrosse League plays four games at the Tacoma Dome.

The Tacoma Dome will host two games Saturday — Chrome vs Redwoods at 4 p.m. and Archers vs Waterdogs at 6:30 p.m. — and two games Sunday — Whipsnakes vs Cannons at noon and Atlas vs Chaos at 2:30 p.m. Single-day tickets and weekend passes are available online at premierlacrosseleague.com/tickets.

Some in the lacrosse community feel the PLL’s decision to play in Tacoma speaks to the sport’s growth in the area. 


“There’s certainly an inspirational aspect, for youth players getting to see … the marquee professional level organization with all of the best players in the country,” said Jack Cerchiara, who coaches UW’s club team and works with a select team called Seattle Starz. 

“There is some sense of validation, too, that the PLL realizes that there is a robust lacrosse community in Washington state.”

The PLL relies on a tour-based model. Teams aren’t affiliated with home cities; instead, all eight teams travel to 11 cities for the regular season. League co-founder Michael Rabil told USA Lacrosse Magazine that Pacific Northwest lacrosse fans have been “anticipating this day since 2018” when the league was founded.

“For the league to pick Seattle means a lot,” said Drew Snider, a former PLL player and O’Dea graduate. “It means we’re ready.”

Nationally, lacrosse was the fastest growing college sport between 2003-18, according to a 2018 NCAA study. The sport was historically popular in three areas of the country: upstate New York; Long Island, New York; and Baltimore. But in recent years it has expanded rapidly in other areas. In addition to Tacoma, PLL will play in Fairfield, Connecticut, and Frisco, Texas, for the first time this season.

Major League Lacrosse, which later was absorbed by the PLL, played exhibition games at Lumen Field (then called Seahawks Stadium) in the early 2000s. But beyond that, no professional outdoor lacrosse team has been based in Seattle. There was the Washington Stealth, an indoor box-lacrosse team based in Everett that lasted four seasons.


“We couldn’t be more excited to play our first PLL game weekend in the great state of Washington and the broader Pacific Northwest region,” league co-founder Paul Rabil said in a statement.

For years, Snider has been advocating to the Rabil brothers and Tom Schreiber for the league to play in the Seattle area. It’s a meeting point between Portland and Vancouver, two other blossoming lacrosse areas, he’d tell them. And it’s filled with PLL players who are giving back to the local community by furthering the game’s reach. 

Besides Snider, a CitySide coach, Eli Gobrecht coaches at CitySide and plays for the Waterdogs, Michael Rexrode and Kyle Pless both coach at Glacier Peak and play for the Atlas and Christian Mazzone coaches at Eastside Catholic High School and previously played for the Archers, among others.

For youth players, it’s a unique opportunity to be coached by a current professional player, Snider and Montoya said. 

Snider’s father, Kris Snider, was among the handful of people who helped organize Seattle’s current high-school lacrosse league in the late 1980s. Community-based local programs already existed, but there was no format in place for select teams or high-school teams, said Scott Kelly, a co-founder of Seattle Starz in 2006. Kris Snider also formed one of the first club teams in Queen Anne in the early 2000s. 

“He was kind of at this ground-level, boots on the ground early stages, kind of set up all the infrastructure,” Drew Snider said of his father. “We kind of came in after college, along with other guys, and took it to the next level.”


Seattle’s select teams and high-school teams have blossomed since. Kelly said Seattle Starz expects about 400-500 players to try out for their four programs this fall. The Starz have sent 61 players to Division I schools since 2015.

Those in the lacrosse community feel the next step is for the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association to sanction the sport. Currently, high-school teams operate as club sports under separate governing bodies. Sanctioning the sport would make it more accessible and create more exposure, Kelly said, because it could be offered in middle school or elementary school. 

But for now the PLL’s decision reaffirms the work that many have put in for decades. The league worked with local organizations, such as Seattle Starz, to put together ticket deals. 

Snider remembers feeling inspired as a kid when he traveled to the East Coast to watch the men’s NCAA Final Four because he thought to himself, “That could be me.” After a decorated professional career in which he became the first West Coast player named to the U.S. national team, he wants other kids to have that same experience. 

“To actually have some of the best players in the world show up at your doorstep, it’s just a huge opportunity for younger players to be inspired,” said Henry Schoonmaker, the Starz high-school boys program director. “A lot of them, either knowingly or unknowingly, will benefit from that.”