Last night, under the lights at Kelly’s Field in West Chester, sixteen 6th graders and one 5th grader did what no other Wilmington Wings lacrosse team has done in their league’s history — they won the championship.
Now in its 30th year, Wilmington Wings was formed in 1990 as a way to help younger kids – boys and girls – learn to play competitive lacrosse. They are the only Delaware squad to participate in a league that for nearly three decades has been dominated by teams with high caliber talent in Pennsylvania and New Jersey — teams with players who feed into large, historical powerhouse school programs in greater Philadelphia.
The success of the Wings program has now helped put Delaware on the map as a source of great college-bound talent itself.
The Wing’s opponents last night – the West Chester Lacrosse Club – were previously undefeated. Coach Rick Cobb said the game was a very physical, close contest against a highly talented team that had beaten the Wings twice in the regular season. The Wilmington Wings participate in the Chester County Lacrosse Association.
“I was thrilled for the kids because I know how hard they have worked to achieve this success. The pure joy on their faces when the clock hit zero was priceless to see. The field was littered with their equipment because they threw their helmets and sticks into the air. It was truly an amazing night,” he said.
Cobb has been coaching Wings for 27 years. His team has gone to the finals twice and lost both times – until last night.
Cobb credits the boys’ success with staying true to the team’s philosophies: to play hard, play smart and play as a team. “The most important goal is to teach life lessons through lacrosse, and when we adhere to those philosophies we are true champions,” he said.
But he added that this season the team had a special edge: one of the parents on the team, Rob Buccini, offered time for the team to practice at the new indoor full-size lacrosse field at the new 76ers Fieldhouse. “That was significant because we never missed a practice. We practiced two days a week and played games two days a week,” said Cobb.
The Wings were down 1-0 in the first quarter last night. But when they scored their next goal, they never trailed again, winning by a comfortable margin of five.
Casey Allen, Luca Pompeii, Sam Duch, Nathan Sutty, David Astfalk, Luke Spoor, among other offensive players, scored goals. The defense led by Will Christopher and Balthazar Buccini kept West Chester on its heels all night, only allowing 4 goals.
“Goalie Peter Morgan played fantastic in the net for us. He had a number of critical saves that kept the momentum in our favor,” said Cobb. After the championship, the boys headed to Dairy Queen to celebrate.
Kids in the program come from a number of different schools – public, private and parochial. And for those who go on to play high school lacrosse, Wings offers the opportunity for kids to form friendly bonds with future opponents. Cobb says that’s a critical driver of sportsmanship as boys and girls develop as athletes. “We play community sports to develop a relationship with our friends and neighbors, and the Wings are an excellent example of just such a program.”
Cobb noted that Wilmington Wings founder Carol Spiker has been the driving force behind the popular Wings Wings program. Spiker started the league as a way to help her son gain valuable coaching experience as a young lacrosse player. Paralyzed from the waist down since 1998, Spiker continued her involvement with the program until only a few years ago. “I can tell you she is a big, big part of this story. We carry her initials on our uniforms,” said Cobb.