Get set for shootout

Hempfield's Kyle Piper is pictured here in a game from 2006.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has taken away the 2020 seasons for all 24 Lancaster-Lebanon League boys and girls lacrosse teams.

As a result, there will be no high school girls lacrosse being played in Lancaster County for the first time in about 20 years. For boys lacrosse, it’ll be the first time in nearly 30 years.

And with that, LNP|LancasterOnline decided to take a look back at those early years to tell the origin stories of boys and girls high school lacrosse in the county.

Up first is a story about the beginnings of boys lacrosse. And it begins in the spring of 1991, when Elizabethtown guidance counselor Rob Umble got a group of high school boys together.

“Guys had lacrosse sticks and seemed to be interested in it,” Umble said. “That was the first time I did anything at E-town. We practiced four or five times a week. We were looking to play a game that spring but couldn’t quite get it together, as I recall.”

The same thing was happening at Hempfield.

“A bunch of the boys I knew played lacrosse,” said Doug Bailey, who was working as a teacher in the Hempfield School District. “They wanted to learn the sport a little bit. I’d get them together every once in a while. It wasn’t even a club.”

Hempfield approved boys lacrosse as an intramural program in 1992. Bailey, an Elizabethtown native who played at Penn State and previously coached at Kutztown University for three seasons, served as the Black Knights’ coach.

“We played Tuesdays and Thursdays in the spring (of 1992),” Bailey recalled. “I had 63 boys from ninth through 12th grade coming to intramurals.”

Umble, a Franklin & Marshall College graduate and former F&M assistant coach, only had 18 that year at Elizabethtown. It didn’t matter when his team and Hempfield scrimmaged that May. Elizabethtown won 11-1 in the first lacrosse game between a pair of Lancaster County teams.

“That was the only time I ever beat Doug Bailey,” Umble said.

E-town and Hempfield went from intramural to club teams in 1993, when they played each other in addition to recently formed club teams from Carlisle, Cumberland Valley, Harrisburg, Hershey and York.

That led to the creation of the inaugural Mid-Penn League in 1994. Hempfield and Lancaster Country Day remained members of that league in boys lacrosse through the 2001 season.

Meanwhile, club teams at other schools in Lancaster County began popping up in the next several years. And in 2002, the nine-team varsity Lancaster Area Boys Lacrosse League began. It was comprised of Conestoga Valley, Elizabethtown, Ephrata, Hempfield, Lampeter-Strasburg, Lancaster Country Day, Manheim Township, Penn Manor and Warwick.

The Lancaster-Lebanon League adopted boys lacrosse beginning in spring 2009, when the sport was brought under the PIAA banner. The league now fields 12 teams.

“I’m so amazed by the growth of it,” Umble said. “It just really speaks to the nature of the sport, how it gets in your blood, how kids will love it once they’ve had a chance to experience it.”

Umble served as Elizabethtown's head coach through the spring of 2000. That's when he left for a job at Lancaster Country Day, where he helped the school get a boys lacrosse program up and running as the varsity coach. He’s now the school's dean of students and has scaled back to a role as an assistant coach.

Bailey served as Hempfield’s coach through the 2010 season, compiling 260 wins, with seven Central Pennsylvania titles, two Lancaster League championships, two L-L titles and a District Three crown. He now lives and coaches in Florida.

They didn’t know it at the time in the early 1990s, but Umble and Bailey were the founding fathers of high school boys lacrosse in Lancaster County.

“When we started, I wasn’t doing it for any notoriety,” Bailey said. “I just love the sport. I really enjoy coaching kids. I really enjoy coaching lacrosse. Those two combinations where people have allowed me to do it has been a lot of fun.”

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