A couple of all-Americans want to make a bet with you: They’re certain you know nothing about their sport, their one true love, this game of lacrosse.

Jerry Lambe likes the chances that you don’t comprehend cross-checking, and Maggie Koch is willing to gamble that you don’t grasp the finer gradations of goalkeeping. And even if you think you do know, Coco Stanwick will gladly tell you you’re dead wrong.

But don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are plenty of people who don’t follow this whole “lax” thing, who are totally unaware of how the sport created by Native Americans and perfected by prepsters is sweeping the West like a drought fire, rolling down the Midwest like a prairie wind and enveloping the Southeast like kudzu.

But since both the men’s and women’s lacrosse programs at Georgetown are about to embark on what could be national championship seasons, it might be time to get educated. Lucky for you, the all-Americans are willing to give you a free lesson before taking the rest of the lacrosse nation to school. So leave your preconceived notions at the door, Lax 101 is about to begin.

LACROSSE: IT’S NOT JUST FOR BLUEBLOODS ANYMORE.

Once confined to the plush pitches of mid-Atlantic prep schools and leafy Ivy League campuses, lacrosse has taken hold all over the country. This year’s men’s roster features one middie from the sunny shores of California and another from the wet woodlands of Washington State.

Brigham Young University, located in once lacrosse-barren Utah, will have its games televised this season. The Denver Outlaws played their inaugural game in 2006 at Invesco Field at Mile High in front of a record-size crowd for Major League Lacrosse.

“It’s been East Coast-based for so long, but in a few years, everyone will know,” Koch, a senior goalie, says.

“It’s still kind of new to the kids out there,” senior attacker Trevor Casey adds. “But if you look at where the sport was 20 years ago and where it is today, it’s leaps and bounds from where it was.”

Adding fuel to lacrosse’s fire is its accessibility – you need not be fast as a leopard or built like a lion to succeed on the lacrosse field.

“Anyone can play. I’m not that fast, I’m not a superb athlete, but I can play,” says Stanwick, a senior attacker who was a finalist for the 2006 Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the national player of the year.

“You look at our team, and there are good athletes, but no one that is some absurd specimen,” Lambe adds. “It’s a sport anybody can play.”

YOUR KIDS WILL WANT TO PLAY LACROSSE.

Just drop your idea that little Billy will be the next Nolan Ryan. Don’t even think about turning Susie into Serena Williams. And please, don’t bore Bobby with piano lessons. Lacrosse is the wave of the future. Just as baseball was the boon of the baby boomers and basketball mesmerized the children of the early 1990s, lax is the sport of choice for the Red Bull-swilling, XBOX-playing, Ritalin-addicted kids of today.

“I used to play baseball as a little kid, and I used to hate it, ’cause you just stand in one spot for three hours and take like seven steps,” says Lambe, whose father is an assistant general manager for the New York Mets. “Lacrosse is just so much more fast-paced, and you get scores that are like 18 or 20 goals a game. It’s much more in tune with what kids want to do.”

Even Lambe’s coach, Dave Urick, who is as old-school as itchell and Ness, recognizes the sport’s appeal to youngsters.

“Football is tough – it’s a grind. It’s a lot of repetition, and you don’t get to scrimmage a lot. It’s a coach’s game,” Urick says. “Lacrosse is a player’s game – it has all the appealing aspects of soccer, hockey, basketball, football.”

Urick, Lambe and Stanwick all contend that lacrosse will only continue to snowball as the next generation of lacrosse stars ages and finds the sport as a way to pay for college.

“Once the younger kids start bugging their parents, that’s when you are going to see the game grow,” Urick adds with a chuckle.

So start up the minivan and consider yourself warned, Mom and Dad.

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE SWEATS.

If you’ve seen Casey or Koch on campus recently, there’s a good chance they were clad in the normal lacrosse getup of sweatpants and a hoody. Whether it’s 7 a.m. and snowing or sunny at half past six, it can seem like lacrosse players are always wrapped in their warm-up wardrobe. But living life in soft cotton and elastic waistbands isn’t as relaxing as you may think.

“It kind of sucks,” Stanwick says, tugging at her hoody with disdain. “I have to wear this – it’s not by choice. But I have to go straight from class to practice every day, and it’s like 105 degrees in class.”

The men’s team wears the sweat suit like a monk bears a cilice. Lambe and his teammates are required to wear their sweats until temperatures threaten dehydration in the late spring months..

“I wouldn’t say it’s a punishment, but it’s definitely a rule – and an award when we finally get to take them off,” Lambe says. “I don’t enjoy wearing them during practice, when its’ 55 degrees and we’re wearing full sweats. It helps us lose weight and stay in shape.”

So maybe sweats are a must at afternoon practice, but what purpose do they serve at a 9 a.m. discussion section? Like an old horse to a barn, sometimes laxmen just follow the routine of Russell Athletic right to the dresser drawer.

“Getting up in the morning, it’s a lot easier than getting up and putting on a pair of jeans,” Casey admits coyly. “Just roll out and throw that stuff on.”

While Koch shares her teammate’s aversion to sweats and spandex, there is one particular article of lax clothing that tickles her fancy.

“We just got some sick new socks for the new season,” Koch says, bubbling with genuine excitement. “We’re into the high socks.”

LAX IS NOT SKULL ‘N BONES

Sprung from its Ivy League roots and mired in the muck of Animal House scandal, lacrosse can’t seem to shed its reputation as cliquish, snot-nosed and elitist. But Urick has gone to great lengths to debunk some of the myths swirling around his beloved sport. For the past 10 years, the coach and his boys have taken time out of their hectic schedules to read to sick children at Georgetown University Hospital.

The 2000 ECAC Lacrosse League coach of the year has volunteered his time at Winner’s Lacrosse, a nonprofit organization that provides both costly lacrosse equipment and valuable life skills to inner-city kids in the District.

“There’s an image out there that I’m not particularly thrilled about,” Urick says. “One thing that needs to change is how expensive the equipment is.”

OK, so Urick is old and wise, you say, but everyone knows that lacrosse players are jerks. Wrong again. Sit down and spend some time with the team, and you’ll find the laxmen are as accommodating as could be.

“We may be stereotyped as a clique, but we are with each other five hours a day, and our schedules are all the same,” Casey explains. “If we’re seen headed into the caf all together, it’s not because we’re trying to be exclusive – we’re just coming from practice, and we’re hungry.”

Lambe shares an off-campus townhouse with three guys who don’t play and estimates that half the people he hangs out with on the weekends “have nothing to do with the sport.”

When Casey traveled to Jacksonville, Fla., last October for the Georgia-Florida football game, most of the friends who joined him on his journey had never set foot on the Multi-Sport Facility. Even on the women’s team, which prides itself on its tight-knit family atmosphere, members count non-athletes in their inner circles.

“Not a lot of the girls on the team live with each other,” says Stanwick, whose four housemates aren’t lax players. “And I would say that our friends that are boys come from all walks of life.”

Still, if you’ve heard lacrosse players talking among themselves in the past, you may have felt left out by some of their unintelligible jargon. But don’t be daunted if you hear Koch or Lambe whispering about “wall-ball.” They’re just speaking of a staple of their game, just as hoopsters chat about launching free throws from the charity stripe.

And don’t be intimidated should you listen in on a conversation between Stanwick and Koch and hear the words “clearing,”cutting,”dodging” or “boarding.” They are simply discussing some of the techniques they use to dominate their league, just as Dwyane Wade speaks of his cross-over, Dwight Freeney his swat-and-swim or Randy Johnson his backdoor slider.

But the Hoyas say too much is made of the lacrosse lingo, which can often times be interpreted only by the sport’s insiders. Casey, for one, sees the slang as childish.

“That kind of talk is more for the younger kids,” Casey claims. “It’s not something we really do, on or off the field.”

“I would say that, for most people, the terms – the get-through, the switch – are a little different,” Stanwick admits. “But it’s not really different than any other sports.”

Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s February, and there are only two home games remaining on the basketball schedule, and sad though it may be, your spring break plans probably don’t include a trip to the Big Apple for the Big East Tournament.

Prepare yourself for the fact that you are going to have to find something else to do with your Saturdays on the Hilltop when Roy and Jeff wrap up their season in a couple weeks.

The all-Americans suggest you give lax a chance. It’s a frenetically fast-paced, hideously high-scoring, sweet symphony of a sport, and your Hoyas happen to be pretty damn good at it. It sure beats standing around. Just ask Jerry Lambe.

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