A beautiful game

Before Portland State student James Taylor founded the university lacrosse club, he could often be seen playing the game across the sandy dunes of Baghdad, Iraq.

Before Portland State student James Taylor founded the university lacrosse club, he could often be seen playing the game across the sandy dunes of Baghdad, Iraq.

Taylor, 28, spent seven years of his life serving the United States as a guardsman for the National Guard.

During his service, Taylor used lacrosse as a method of remaining sensible amidst a war zone full of car bombs and fatal gun shots, often competing alongside fellow soldiers Dane Jensen and Dan Morris.

“Playing lacrosse was like having a piece of home. If I was left without the game, I would have gone insane,” Taylor said. “We passed it off as physical training.”

Since returning from overseas, Taylor has started a lacrosse club at PSU and approximately 34 students are enrolled.

“Campus Rec told me other people were interested but they didn’t want to fill out the paperwork,” Taylor said about starting the PSU lacrosse club. “All I did was fill out the paperwork. It was super easy.”

Immediately enrolling in the military after graduating high school, Taylor’s time in Baghdad left him a changed man, both physically and mentally.

Taylor said he has had a lacrosse stick in his hand practically every day since he was 13 years old and has mulled over the idea of starting a lacrosse club for a couple years.

This fall marks Taylor’s first term at PSU. Taylor previously attended Portland Community College after returning from Iraq in 2005. When he approached Campus Recreation about the prospect of establishing a lacrosse team, they were ecstatic, he said.

Although he now has a constant ringing in his ears due to loud explosions, Taylor said his experiences in Baghdad gave him a much needed sense of direction.

“When I came out of high school, I didn’t know what to do,” Taylor said. “I didn’t have an interest in school before. And being at war really led me to Portland State.”

Taylor is slated to meet with the Student Fee Committee (SFC) later this week to discuss the details of his club’s budget. Although Taylor submitted a budget proposal for $3,000 he is expecting less from the SFC.

The recently established club has already held two practices, and at each session new faces have emerged.

Grant Neely, an 18-year-old freshman, is one of the students that attended the first practice only to find a substantial turnout. Neely, no stranger to lacrosse, was part of Lakeridge High School’s three consecutive championships from 2005-07.

“I think this program has a lot of promise. It’s really growing fast,” Neely said. “When I saw the flier, I was pretty stoked because lacrosse was the one thing missing from Portland State.”

If the club can retain a steady enrollment of 20 to 30 players and prove itself as worthy competition, it could gain admission into the Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League as early as next year, Taylor said. Games begin in the spring and Portland State could face off against programs from Montana, Western Oregon and Willamette University.

Taylor, a student of the sport, explained how the roots of lacrosse began with Native Americans, who called it bagataway. The word bagataway means “little brother of war,” because Native American tribes used the sport as a training method for warriors in combat.

Club member Shota Seiriki, 21, came to PSU from Saitama, Japan. He started his lacrosse career two years ago at Waseda University in Japan, and now plans to continue playing at PSU.

“Lacrosse is different here because at home the players weren’t as strong,” Seiriki said. “But we are much faster and quicker there.”