UNLV’s intramural fields are vibrant again with club sports returning, which includes UNLV women’s lacrosse, who are working on and off the field to grow their promising program.
The Rebels are gearing up for a full season, 20 months after their last tournament. UNLV held its first practice of 2021 on Sept. 13 in preparation for their first tournament in Nov. in Phoenix, AZ.
Winning the league and qualifying for national tournaments are major objectives for the program, but there are greater goals that they focus on. Team bonding, teaching less experienced players the game of lacrosse and having an enjoyable season are all a priority for UNLV in its return season.
“We’re growing the team and being comfortable with each other, just being a big happy family who enjoys competing together,” said London Thompson, president of the UNLV women’s lacrosse program. “I think nationals would be great, league championships would be great, but I just want to have a fun season with my team this year.”
Another focal point of the program is to teach the sport to new players, as well as serve as an avenue for the more experienced players to improve their skills, all while competing at a collegiate level.
Anyone interested in lacrosse can join, regardless of experience. On this year’s team, there is a wide range of lacrosse experience.
“About a third of our team is new, having never played before,” said Thompson. “A third is new, who have experienced playing lacrosse and then about a third of our team are returning players who we’ve had on the team before.”
Thompson joined the organization without a lot of experience. Meanwhile, Leilu Hernandez and Breanna Davideit, who are both captains, have eight years on them, dating back to their time playing in high school together.
Despite having the most experience on the team, Hernandez always appreciates the chance to learn something from the new players.
“I still love learning from all the younger players,” Hernandez, the organization’s treasurer said. “I love being able to teach something that I love to younger players and just being able to learn new things.”
UNLV is a part of the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (WCLA), which is a part of USA Lacrosse. The WCLA is the largest association for club women’s lacrosse teams.
They are a Division II team, and within WCLA, they play in the Western Women’s Lacrosse League (WWLL), which features teams from California, Arizona and Nevada.
The teams in the WWLL are broken up into three conferences, North, Central and South, with UNLV being in the Central conference. To qualify for league championships at the end of the year, teams must play everyone in their conference and two different teams from the other conferences.
As a club sport, women’s lacrosse does not receive funding from the school’s athletic department. That is for the Division I sports. Receiving the necessary funding to travel, purchase equipment and cover any other expenses are one of their biggest challenges.
“We’re not funded entirely from the school like all the Division I sports are,” said Davideit, vice president of the program. “We still do get funding from the school which is really nice…but we can’t get funding for everything, so there is some stuff that we had to pay for.”
Club sports receive some funding from the school as an organization, but they must apply for it. All club sports work together to share the funds with all club teams on campus. Because many of their tournaments are out of state, travel to their games on weekends is one of their greatest expenses.
Thompson said one of their goals this year is to build a better relationship with the rest of the club sports teams. One of her ideas is to host an co-ed scrimmage game with the men’s lacrosse team, which is also a club sport.
UNLV’s tournament next month does not count towards its qualification for the league or national tournament, but it is still an opportunity for the entire team to get a feel of what a game feels like. The Rebels will host their own tournament in March of 2022, and Thompson wants everyone at UNLV to be out there to support them.
As training and preparations for a successful season continue, everyone understands that the takeaways are more important than wins and losses. Through playing the sport of lacrosse, all members value the family bond they have created on and off the field.
“The family that I’ve made,” said Davideit, when asked her biggest takeaway from being a part of the women’s lacrosse program. “Just everyone that I’ve met on the team and through tournaments has definitely made my college experience way better than it would have been if I just did not get involved at all.”