It may seem like just yesterday to some lacrosse fans when reminiscing about Manheim Township boys lacrosse winning the state championship.
However, the five-year mark of the Blue Streaks capturing the PIAA Class 3A crown is soon approaching.
That 2018 Manheim Township squad made history in being the first District Three boys team to win a state crown. Several members of that team went on to play collegiately, including second-leading scorer Zach Diamond, who is currently notching another historical lacrosse marker in his belt.
After wrapping up a four-year playing career at NCAA Division I High Point University in North Carolina, Diamond recently began playing professional lacrosse for the Charlotte Bootleggers in the upstart Professional Box Lacrosse Association.
He’s just the third Lancaster County men's lacrosse product to play the game professionally, following in the footsteps of Hempfield legend Kyle Wimer and Manheim Township legend Alex Ready. Adding to those August ranks, Manheim Township grad Molly Hendrick played for the Philadelphia Fire of the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League.
“It’s definitely cool being on that level,” Diamond said.
For those accustomed to the traditional lacrosse game on an open field or turf, box lacrosse is a bit different, essentially played inside a hockey rink, which means no out-of-bounds since the walls keep the ball in play, with five players and a goalie to each team at a time.
“The boards are the biggest difference in allowing the ball to remain in play,” Charlotte Bootleggers coach Jon Lantzy said. “It adds speed to the game. The dimensions of the goals are smaller. There are less guys on the field. All that leads to a more exciting game.”
Pro men’s lacrosse in the United States has gone through a few changes in recent years, with the launch of Major League Lacrosse in 2019, which then served as a competitor to the long-established Premier Lacrosse League. The COVID-19 pandemic ultimately led to the two leagues combining, going under the PLL banner. There’s also the National Lacrosse League, a box lacrosse league headquartered in Philadelphia with a third of its teams based in Canada. Speaking of which, there are opportunities to play pro lacrosse in Canada, but they’re difficult to maintain unless you live north of the border.
That’s because even the most veteran pro lacrosse players earn most of their living either by teaching lacrosse as an instructor on the side, working a traditional full-time job or both. The actual lacrosse games are played on the weekends in-season.
“There’s nobody playing lacrosse full-time,” Lantzy said. “It’s always been weekend warrior lacrosse.”
The PBLA launched Dec. 29, with nine teams based in cities where the sport is popular, including Charlotte, which tabbed its head coach to be Lantzy, a former Duke assistant who has coached the game at various levels for about three decades. Lantzy is currently the head lacrosse coach, assistant athletic director and physical education teacher at a prep academy in Durham, North Carolina, a job he is keeping while adding on to his plate his duties with the Bootleggers.
Tasked with building a roster for a brand new Charlotte team, Lantzy tapped his local college connections, including High Point coach John Torpey.
Diamond was among a handful of recent High Point grads brought in for a 35-man team camp, essentially a tryout for those looking to play for the Bootleggers. It worked for Diamond as he’s in the beginnings of a sales career in Charlotte.
You missed these CIRCUS GOALS😲...if you didn't see the @WatchPBLA game of the week this past Friday.— Lacrosse TV (@WatchLacrosseTV) January 16, 2023
Luckily we have the FULL GAME posted on Lacrosse TV's YouTube page: https://t.co/gSlVlxKMnl pic.twitter.com/o8CCX89mmR
The Bootleggers roster was eventually cut down to 18 players. Diamond made the cut.
“Box lacrosse is 10 times faster than field lacrosse,” Diamond said. “The ball is never out of play. Something is always going on. I’m playing guys with more experience. It’s definitely been an adjustment.”
Diamond is helping on faceoffs and serving as a right-handed transition player, a bit of a change since being a scoring threat at Manheim Township and a defensive midfielder at High Point. The move to defense at High Point stemmed from a spate of injuries to Diamond. Along those lines, Diamond revealed to LNP|LancasterOnline for this story that he played with a “broken back” during the entirety of the Streaks’ 2018 state title season.
“I wore a custom brace from my chest to my waste,” he said. “I probably had my best high school season with it.”
He’s a gamer looking to extend his playing career a little bit longer. How much longer?
“I’m not sure,” Diamond said. “We’ll see if my body can take it. It’s a cool experience right now learning the box game. Different set of rules. Hopefully the PBLA becomes a staple league. It’s cool to be a pioneer in a new league.”
Boys Lacrosse: FINAL, Manheim Township completes history-making run with 6-4 win over La Salle to capture program's first ever state championship @MTSD_ATHLETICS @ManheimTownship @MTLaxLeadership @MTLacrosse @LancasterSports pic.twitter.com/uxLvw6YPNg— John Walk (@JWalkLNP) June 9, 2018