KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- KC may still have a way to go to catch up to the level of interest for lacrosse on the coasts.
But on Thursday the Kansas City Metro Girls Lacrosse Association Championships was one of the first featuring players who had been playing since elementary school. And athletes beginning at younger ages is starting to put Kansas City on the lacrosse map.
“Eight years ago, I don’t think anyone really knew what lacrosse was," Kiki Ehrich said.
Mary Coppinger-Orndoff could have never imagined what girls lacrosse would become in Kansas City when she first started trying to field a team her daughter could play on at St. Teresa’s Academy.
“We had no idea how many girls would be interested in the sport," she said.
When her daughter graduated, she turned her attention to the younger generations, including her 5th grade niece.
“She was like, 'Kristina I’ve got a stick for you,' and I was like, 'OK, Mary.' So I took it, and I have not put it down," Kristina Coppinger said.
Coppinger is now one of five players from the metro playing NCAA Division I women's lacrosse. She plays defense for Arizona State.
“I saw how good she was at it and how much fun she was having, so I decided to pick up a stick and join her," her younger sister Kate Coppinger said.
On Thursday, Kate and her St. Teresa's Stars squared off against Shawnee Mission in the league's championship.
On the other sideline was another family who have been involved since the sport's beginnings in Kansas City, the senior captain and coach, her dad.
“Stuff like this, this is so fun. I love the competitiveness," Shawnee Mission's Kiki Ehrich said.
Dennis Ehrich has coached every game Kiki has played since 4th grade, including Thursday night's game -- both her and his last. Shawnee Mission fell 21-12 in the championship. But Dennis plans to stay on as league president.
“I think it’s important that this sport thrives, and I’m not done helping the city grow this sport," Ehrich said.
The league hopes to expand from its current 12 teams.
“We believe that if we can expose kids from all different geographies in our community, it will benefit a lot of kids down the road," Coppinger-Orndoff said.