Haudenosaunee girls’ lacrosse teams to participate at California tournament

Thursday, February 15th, 2024 10:30am


Image Caption

Coach Hannah Lazare has gathered two squads to compete in the winter nationals in the US Box Lacrosse Association tourney in California this weekend.
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Hannah Lazare has already experienced a bit of glory with some Ontario-based lacrosse players.

Lazare, who is from the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, was the head coach of the girls’ under-19 squad that captured the silver medal at last summer’s North American Indigenous Games (NAIG), primarily held in Halifax.

“I was able to establish a really good connection with a lot of the girls,” Lazare said.

So, when Lazare heard there was an opportunity to enter a prestigious tournament in California, she emailed all the members of her NAIG team to see if they were interested in taking part.

That tournament is the winter nationals for the US Box Lacrosse Association (USBOXLA), which begins Feb. 16 and continues until Feb. 18 in the California city of Irvine.

“I told them it’s going to be a bit expensive but I think we can make it work if you are interested,” Lazare said.

As it turned out, even though the trip is costing about $2,400 (US) per player, there was an overwhelming response.

“Within one, two hours we had 16 girls that were interested,” Lazare said.

And then some of those interested players started suggesting other Indigenous teens who would also be keen to compete, so the Haudenosaunee Jr. Selects Women’s Lacrosse program was launched. And Lazare was able to put together two squads for the California tourney.

The Haudenosaunee entrants are the only all-Indigenous teams that will compete at the tournament. Since none of their games will overlap, Lazare will be able to serve as the head coach for both clubs.

One of the Haudenosaunee entries will compete in the girls’ high school division, which features players born from 2005 through 2007. This grouping will feature five squads.

The other Haudenosaunee club will take part in the girls’ junior varsity category, for players born between 2008 and 2010. Four teams are entered in the junior varsity division.

A total of 35 players will be on the two Haudenosaunee squads. Nine of these individuals could potentially be seeing some double duty. That’s because those members of the junior varsity team have been listed as affiliate players and could potentially move up and also see some action with the Haudenosaunee high school side.

“I’m not sure how we’ll do,” she said. “I don’t want to speculate and say we’re going to blow the other teams out of the water.”

Lazare said the tournament will provide another learning experience for team members.

“I’m just happy to be there and see that the girls are developing,” said Lazare, who continues to play the sport herself. She’s the head coach and a player for the Akwesasne Outlaws, members of the Ontario-based Women’s Major Series Lacrosse (WMSL). The Outlaws hosted the season-ending WMSL championships this past August.

Lazare’s two daughters are among those who will play in the California tournament.

Odessa Leaf is a goaltender, who will suit up for the junior varsity team. Leaf is also listed as an affiliate player for the high school team, which includes her sister Leita-Jayne Lazare.

The sisters are two of the eight players from Akwesasne that will be playing in USBOXLA.

Walpole Island First Nation will also be represented by eight players at the California tourney as part of the Haudenosaunee squads. Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and Six Nations of the Grand River will have seven players each taking part in the event on the teams.