BYFIELD — The Northern Rise Girls’ Lacrosse Showcase is the Walt Disney World of tournaments.
The setting on the campus of Governor’s Academy is intimate, the atmosphere festive, the hospitality first-class. But the lure for college coaches from across the country is the top-level high school talent on hand from the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.
“We wanted to bring great coaches and great competition to New England, versus always having to travel for tournaments,” said Lukas Cash, a 35-year-old North Attleborough native who coordinates the annual event and serves as director of the New England-based Revolution Lacrosse Club.
“We’ve been blessed so far, and now we’re the number-one tournament in the nation,” he said.
According to Cash, more college coaches — a total of 154 last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday — attend this tournament than any other girls’ lacrosse showcase in the United States; yet the Rise event was created by his event management company, REVevents, just four years ago.
Over the course of the tournament, roughly 6,000 people rolled into Governor’s, nearly tripling the 3,427 population of the small village of Byfield in Newbury.
Forty clubs, consisting of 135 teams and about 2,800 athletes, battled from Friday morning to Sunday evening, as the girls got an opportunity to show off their skills and talents.
Anne Phillips, the women’s varsity coach at Yale, embraces these tourneys, believing there is a place for everyone on the field in a sport that continues to flourish at all levels.
“There have been 82 new women’s lacrosse programs added at the college level in Division 1 and 3 since 2008,” said Phillips, who guided Franklin & Marshall to the NCAA Division 3 title in 2007 and just completed her fifth season at Yale.
“The good news is that the women’s game is expanding at the college level and therefore there will be a perfect fit for almost every high school player — academically and athletically — at the next level.”
A number of tourneys may be larger, in terms of teams on site, but Cash’s goal is to be small, and stay small.
“We have a wait list of about 50 clubs, but we’re at maximum capacity now. We don’t get any bigger and we don’t want to get any bigger,” Cash said.
“The college coaches love it because they can stay for a full game and then go see someone else. It’s what they like, so they can maximize recruiting.”
The club programs are divided into teams, based on graduation year, and range from rising sophomores to rising seniors. Some clubs even break it down further into teams based on ability — another tactic to improve the experience for college coaches so they can easily pick and choose which games will match their program’s level.
Much of the focus is placed on the rising juniors, which places a lot of stress — and excitement — on the class of 2015.
“It’s kind of nerve-racking, but it’s exciting, too, because we obviously want to impress the coaches,” said Eliza Statile, a rising junior from Ipswich High who is a goalie for Revolution Lacrosse.
She made the transition to goal this spring and revels at the opportunity to show off her skills in net.
“It’s really awesome that they come to us and look forward to seeing us play,” she said. “That pumps you up and makes you want to play well.”
Nerves are common with young athletes, but the REVevents staff tries to offer relief, piping in music across the eight fields in play.
“The music really pumps you up, and they have the best soundtrack,” said Melissa Riccio, a rising junior center midfielder at Winchester High School who plays in the New England Select Lacrosse League.
“It really settles the nerves because you get so worked up about playing for the college coaches, so you just listen to a little bit of Miley Cyrus or whatever, and you get in the groove.”
Karen Henning, the women’s coach at Colby College, lauded the attention to detail.
“It’s kind of like when you go to a city and there’s a police officer or somebody everywhere you go. There’s always someone there to help guide you, to take you where you need to be, to give you a bottle of water or give you a snack.”
It all makes the recruiting effort a more enjoyable experience, and entices more coaches each year to a region where girls’ lacrosse has been seeking attention for years.
Stanford assistant coach Lauren Schwarzmann said the accessibility to the fields, the cart service, the hospitality is “all fantastic.”
Heather Hartford, director of the New England Select league, calls the work of Cash and his staff “commendable.”
“It’s fabulous for New England kids, because a lot of times families can’t get to the tournaments down south,” she said. “This gives our New England girls an opportunity to be seen and gives them a fair chance to be recruited.”Taylor C. Snow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @taylorcsnow.