Girls’ Lacrosse

South Florida’s girl’s lacrosse gaining momentum

 

Special to The Miami Herald

Every day over the summer, Pine Crest’s Jasmine Docal practiced her stick skills by throwing a ball back and forth off the wall in her back yard.

Docal also worked in sprints and joined the XTEAM club, surviving training she described as “10 days of hell.”

The hard work paid off a week before the start of her senior year when Docal committed to seven-time national champion Northwestern University, becoming the first player from the area to achieve the honor.

“I was kind of surprised at first because being from South Florida it’s kind of hard to be recruited,” Docal said. “I put in so much hard work. When my coach told me I didn’t believe it at first.”

Girls’ lacrosse didn’t become a state-sanctioned sport in Florida until 2008. This season marks the first time public schools participate in the series. The Northeastern region of the country receives the majority of the attention.

The South Florida Lacrosse League, which stretches as far north as Vero Beach, has had just one player — Courtney Swan — recruited as highly as Docal.

Swan, a sophomore midfielder for the University of Virginia, finished her high school career as an Under Armour and Academic All-American. Inside Lacrosse named her the 10th-ranked incoming freshman for the Class of 2015.

A girl at North Palm Beach Benjamin School recently verbally committed to play for Western next year. Northwestern already broke ground by signing the first player out of Texas.

Docal’s coach at Pine Crest, Eileen Pliske, is in her 13th season, making her the longest-tenured lacrosse coach in South Florida.

“Seeing the development of the sport in the last decade is unbelievable,” Pliske said. “So many more kids are going into top Division I programs from South Florida lacrosse that it’s amazing. It’s humbling. It’s exciting to be on that radar when these top-level coaches are looking at the talent. We feel like we’ve broken through that barrier there.”

Because lacrosse wasn’t readily available in either elementary or middle schools as Docal grew up, she had limited experience as a freshman.

The team captain, who had 61 goals and 33 assists in 2012 and has 37 goals and 20 assists so far this season as a defensive midfielder, compensated with speed and intangibles, as well as genetics.

Her mother, Terri Savin-Docal, won an Association for Intercollegiate Athletics national title at the University of Maryland in 1981. She and three other moms began the FlyLax program at a local YMCA.

Docal jumped on the scene as a sophomore with XTEAM. On its website, it describes the program as “dedicated to leveling the playing field for girls from ‘non-traditional’ lacrosse playing areas who want to pursue the sport in college.”

Aside from exposure, XTEAM sends girls to the top recruiting tournaments throughout the country. Docal has missed homecoming because of them, but she has no regrets.

Sophomore Allie Gershman, who has played the sport since middle school, is on a younger XTEAM. Like Docal, Gershman started out with soccer.

“It’s awesome because she’s an amazing player,” Gershman said. “She always tries to help everybody and took me under her wing my freshman year.”

Added Pliske: “She’s taken her sport to a whole other level. When you see her on the field there’s a difference when you watch her and other players around this area. She definitely stands out. When that kid walks into the room it lights up. She’s a world changer for me.”

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