Hazelwood Central Lacrosse Program Flourishing Despite Obstacles
The Hawks score a landmark win for its club program and claim the MSLA Division II state championship.
The challenges in building an impactful high school club sport program are unrelenting. But if you see your kids excel, graduate and play in college, you are on the right path.
If you add in a state championship, there is no doubting the program’s successful direction. This is now the case with the Hazelwood Central Boys Lacrosse Club.
The Hawks claimed the Missouri Scholastic Lacrosse Association Division II state championship on May 28 with a dramatic 5-4 win over Rockwood Summit (10-5).
It is the first state title for the 15-year-old Hazelwood Central (13-4) program.
“It was a real special win. Our goal was to win a state title this year and to get these kids to understand our goals took a lot of work,” Hazelwood Central coach Brian Livingston said.
“We started 11-0. Playing deeper in the program than we did before helped us. Most varsity teams play 18 and 19 kids, and we were playing 21 or 22. We had more stamina as the games went longer.”
A significant reason why the Hawks won the title was because its core group of players played together for multiple years. The players have learned the intricacies of the sport while developing a well-rounded attack that may be setting a foundation for continued lacrosse growth in North County.
“The reason we were better this year is we could score. Our offense really clicked better than the past two years. Our defense stood tall as well, averaging five goals against,” Livingston said. “That is what we’re known for, is defense and goaltending. But now we are scoring to win the game.”
Livingston was a member of the original Hazelwood Central lacrosse team in 1996, and he also played there in 1997 before heading to the University of Missouri. After graduating in 2001, he coached at Central for one year before leaving. He eventually went on to coach at Washington University in 2006 and 2007.
Following that coaching stint, he went back to Central. Now Livingston is a bookend on both sides of the program’s timeline.
“It was slow to grow in the early 2000s, then increased around ‘05 and really started ramping up its growth,” Livingston said. "The big thing was the popularity picking up from the cable networks showing the games and ESPN signing up the NCAA playoff games.”
The primary challenge in most club sports is covering expenses, but concerns also include keeping people in the program, expanding the number of kids and then creating stability and success.
“In North County, there is more interest now, but we lose a lot of kids that start here at Hazelwood and then end up somewhere else,” Livingston said. “We’ve done good with the different boundary changes in the Hazelwood School District. We’ve still been able to draw kids from multiple schools.
“It’s been kind of stagnant since 2005 in terms of increasing our number of kids in the program. It’s unfortunate we can’t get more, and it has a lot to do with funding. The economy does not help, as it’s not cheap. We have to fundraise ourselves,” he said.
The Hawks play home games behind Hazelwood Northwest Middle School. Hazelwood Central plays in the American Conference and went 12-1 in league action in 2011, a far cry from the team’s 1-11 overall mark in 2008.
Success draws positive attention, and nothing like a championship appeals to youngsters. Another factor is sending kids to play lacrosse in college. The team’s past three goaltenders have each went on to play in college.
Among this year’s seniors is attacker Kasey Wade. He assisted on the title-winning goal in overtime against Summit and will play lacrosse at the new program at Lindenwood University in Belleville. Senior midfielder Connor McPartland scored the championship-winning goal with 1:30 left. He has signed to play at the University of Iowa this fall.
Wade led the team with 40 regular-season goals and 21 assists, followed by 40 from junior attacker Andy Thomas. Junior goalie Mason Goodwin helped to anchor the team’s defense.
The narrow win over Summit came at Lindenwood University, and the Hawks were down 4-1 in the second half. Senior midfielder Jeremy Williams scored a fourth-quarter goal, as did McPartland, to force the overtime.
The Hawks beat Wentzville-Holt, 7-4, and Parkway Central, 7-5, to make the championship game.
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