If soccer is a sport largely ignored by most Americans unless the World Cup is going on, then what about lacrosse?

You may know that Duke University defeated Notre Dame to win this year's men's college lacrosse championship.

But there's actually competitive lacrosse being played locally, too.

The Arizona Youth Lacrosse League has been in existence since 1996. During a season that ran Feb. 27-May 1, the Oro Valley Wolverines made the playoffs in Division II play, losing to eventual champions Catalina Foothills 11-7 at Chaparral High School.

The Wolverines are made up of high school players from Canyon Del Oro, Ironwood Ridge, Mountain View and Marana high schools.

"It was a good season," said Oro Valley coach Tom Carr. "There were a couple of losses that were upsets. We came together in the second half of the season."

Carr likens lacrosse to hockey, calling the game a cross between basketball and hockey.

"You set picks, screens, and there are penalties like in hockey. An average score is 13-10. The ball is like a Super Ball."

The Wolverines have made great strides. After going 0-12 in their inaugural campaign, they went 2-8 last year, and earned a playoff berth with a 7-5 record this year. In the midst of a strong second half, the Wolverines handed Catalina Foothills its only loss of the season, 6-5.

Goalie Ian Hook was named as the team's most valuable player. He had 73 saves with a 6.14 save percentage. Mike Collins was the offensive player of the year, while Lucas Henkel was the defensive player of the year. Henkel and the Wolverines' Shaun Koenig also made the all-state team, while Collins was a first-team all-star. Chris Gin and Dathan Segle also had very good seasons.

Collins finished ninth in Division II scoring with 22 goals and nine assists, 31 points overall. Austin Smith had 12 goals and 10 assists, for 22 points, while Brian Edwards scored 16 points, Segle 16, and Dillon Engel 14 points.

Three other Tucson-area teams — Tanque Verde, Catalina Foothills and Salpointe Catholic — join Oro Valley in Division II play. While Foothills won it all this year, Salpointe won last year's championship, and Tanque Verde took it in 2008.

"It's our turn next year," Carr said. "We only graduated three players. Next season, we'll have 18 seniors."

To learn more about The Arizona Youth Lacrosse League, which also has junior varsity, and junior high teams, type in www.azlax.com.

Some facts about lacrosse

There are 10 players on a side in lacrosse.

Each team has a goalie, three offensive players, three defensive players and three midfielders. Midfielders expend the most energy, because they go back and forth between offense and defense. The other players usually focus on one or the other.

A high school game has four quarters that last 12 minutes each, just like high school football. A college game runs 15 minutes per quarter, again mirroring the college football game. The International World Games take place every four years, like the World Cup.

A goal is six feet by six feet.

Measures are in place to compensate the defensive side of the action.

"Defensive players have longer sticks (or poles)," Oro Valley coach Tom Carr said. "Offensive players, who are generally the faster players, have sticks that are 40-42 inches, while defensive players have ones that are 52-72 inches."

Defense is played by stick checking and body contact. Offensive players are not allowed into the crease.

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