Sylvania (OH) Dominates Despite Obstacles

By Eric S. Smith

Students at Northview and Southview high schools in Sylvania, Ohio, have a friendly cross-town rivalry in most sports ... but not in lacrosse.

A lacrosse rivalry would tear the team apart. Why? Because the students from both schools are playing on the same lacrosse squad. Sylvania lacrosse is still a club sport--and a darn good one at that.

The Sylvania Maple Leafs are the two-time defending Ohio High School Lacrosse Association Club Division champions, and are currently the top ranked club team in Ohio and 16th overall in the Buckeye State according to LaxPower.

At 18-1, the Maple Leafs are looking to make it three titles in a row, and while that seems impressive enough on its own, consider what a club team has to endure that a school-sponsored team does not.

A club team, like Sylvania, is self-sustaining and thus does not have a large budget to pull money from. Instead, everything penny that comes into the program is spent in some fashion. The Maple Leafs' players pay $400 to play on the team and cover any general expenses. Players can raise funds by selling advertisements in the program or selling mulch, but there is no school board simply handing over the funds.

"If we were school-sponsored we could get more kids to come out and play, especially because of the finances," said Sylvania head coach Ross Mellgren.

Additionally, the players must buy a helmet, shoulder pads, gloves, elbow pads and a stick. That averages around $300, and nobody has scored a goal or even touched the field yet.

When that field is Sylvania's home stadium, there really is no problem. But when the Maple Leafs have to travel, there are some issues. Sylvania is located right on the Ohio-Michigan border in the greater Toledo area. This is not a rich lacrosse area to say the least--in the Toledo area, only six other teams play lacrosse.

So travel becomes a necessity, but simply getting one of the school buses to take the student-athletes to a game is not a possibility. The team must either drive to other areas of the state or travel outside the state of Ohio.

"We have to make our own travel arrangements, but the parents are very understanding of that," Mellgren said.

Having to travel is not the only problem; teams also don't want to play Sylvania. If a Division I or II team plays the Maple Leafs and loses; it hurts the playoff seeding points system. If they win, there is little benefit.

"I would love to play an all-Div. I schedule if I could," Mellgren said. "That's why we will soon have to split and become school-sponsored by the two individual schools."

Becoming school-sponsored was a focus of former coach James Reed, who led the Leafs to their two state titles but became ill before this season when Mellgren took over.

"Coach Reed had a plan for becoming school-sponsored," Mellgren said. "That plan was slightly derailed, but we need to get back on track."

If the Maple Leafs were to split, certainly their level of play may suffer--but probably not that much. Sylvania has proven to be an extremely talented team.

This season, the Leafs defeated Culver Academy, which recently won its second straight state title in Indiana.

"That game really set the pace for the rest of our season," Mellgren said.

This season, Sylvania has been led on offense by a dynamic finisher in senior Tripper Northrup and an extremely talented junior in Branden Yoshino, who is an attackman converted from the midfield. They also have a stalwart in goal with senior Alex Wisner.

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