Glendale Lacrosse Club

Lacrosse goalkeeper Violet Ismailyan stops a shot during a practice at Glendale High School. The Glendale Lacrosse Club's girls' team finished its season at 4-6. (RAUL ROA News-Press)

SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — After Nico Gallegos transferred last summer to Glendale High from Park City, Utah, he came to grips that he might not grip a lacrosse stick competitively for some time.

Gallegos had played several seasons for the Park City High boys' lacrosse team, excelling as a midfielder. He became comfortable with the sport in Utah, yet figured it might not be as popular in California.

A few days into the fall semester, Gallegos spotted Joe Campbell, one of two coaches overseeing the Glendale Lacrosse Club, carrying a lacrosse stick near Glendale High's Moyse Field.

Just like that, Gallegos found himself with a chance to continue playing a sport dear to him.

"I had played lacrosse in Utah, where it's a big deal," said Gallegos, a senior. "I guess I didn't expect to play lacrosse again [in high school] and then I saw Coach Campbell and asked him if he had a team.

"I was going to be on the school's water polo team and I was mediocre at water polo. I didn't have any of my lacrosse equipment, so I had to borrow some until I got mine. I'm glad I get to play lacrosse now."

Gallegos was one of roughly 35 players on the team, which concluded its season May 22 at 7-7 in the Pacific Lacrosse League. The 20-member girls' team finished its campaign May 23, going 4-6 in the Southern California Lacrosse Assn.

The teams are not sanctioned by CIF and the sport isn't funded by the Glendale Unified School District, though Campbell, who teamed with Dennis Foster to form the club in 2007, would like to include Glendale among the group of schools competing in CIF.

"It's a sport that's becoming more and popular each year, and we are seeing that here in California," said Campbell, who runs the school's construction academy and played lacrosse in high school and college before being inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame's Greater Los Angeles Chapter in 2008. "The numbers have gone up here.

"We've kept telling the kids to give lacrosse a shot. Usually, they get hooked and then they ask their friends to try out."

According to CIF Southern Section Director of Communications Thom Simmons, there are currently 64 boys' teams and 45 girls' teams who have CIF sanctioned lacrosse teams from Orange to Santa Barbara counties. In 2008, there were 58 boys' teams and 42 girls' sanctioned squads.

For a school to have a CIF sanctioned program, Simmons said it must pay a $50 fee and then have the respective school and its district approve it so they can become a CIF Southern Section team.

Campbell, a New York native, has held numerous fundraisers since 2007 to help foot the bill to purchase equipment.

"It's up to our administration as to if they think it should be a CIF sport," Campbell said. "I understand it's about the budgeting because they have to be able to have the budget for it.

"Our mission is to show that we are out there providing something of value."

The clubs, which feature mainly Glendale students, see their respective seasons run from February through May.

The girls' team participated in a prestigious tournament prior to the season in Palm Desert. Five members of the boys' team — seniors Yourik Kazarian, Matthew Bogatz, Moises Chavez and Alex Aleksyan and junior Chan Kim — will participate in the league's all-star game at 3 p.m. Saturday at Moyse Field.

Kazarian, a goalkeeper, said he's become more comfortable playing the sport since he got started about three years ago.

"It's a fun sport and that's why I love it so much," Kazarian said. "I never knew that there are so many [schools] that have lacrosse teams."

Violet Ismailyan, a senior goalkeeper on the girls' team, became aware of the sport after she joined Campbell's construction class two years ago. Campbell persuaded her to join the club and she hasn't regretted it since.

"I had never heard of the sport before and he said I should play," said Ismailyan, who will attend UC Irvine. "It's become a big part of my life.

"I started to tell my friends about it and some of them joined the team. You are always learning something because Coach Campbell is so patient with all of us."