Jake Hymowitz saw his junior season with the men’s lacrosse team come to an early end last spring as he suffered a knee injury prior to the 2016 campaign. But before returning to the team for his senior year, Hymowitz spent his summer spreading the game of lacrosse internationally.
Andrew Landsman, a goalie for the Israel National team who helped it to the 2016 European Lacrosse Federation Gold-Medal Match, reached out to Hymowitz via Facebook Messenger about an opportunity to play in Israel. Landsman represented Israel Lacrosse, the organization that runs the Israel Premier Lacrosse League (IPLL). Israel Lacrosse’s goal is to spread the game and spark interest in the sport throughout the country.
“I was excited to spend the summer playing lacrosse in Israel,” said Hymowitz.
Along with many other Jewish-American college players, Hymowitz participated through a birthright trip offered by Israel Lacrosse. The trip is free of charge for the athletes.
Upon arrival, the birthright players had the opportunity to scrimmage the Israel National Lacrosse team and won, 17-2.
Israel’s National team is comprised mainly of Jewish-American players. Israel Lacrosse hopes the IPLL spreads the game to the citizens of the country so more Israeli-born players fill the roster.
Hymowitz played defense for a lacrosse club located in the city of Be’er Sheva. It was the club’s debut season and it hired Jordan Hirsch as head coach. Hirsch played at Nazareth College in New York and was a member of the 2004 team that reached the Division III National Championship game. He briefly served as an assistant coach at Guilford’s Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) rivals Hampden-Sydney College (2008) and Lynchburg College (2008-2010).
Hymowitz and the team had their first match with Haifa LC, a 5-4 Be’er Sheva victory. The city of Haifa did not have an official lacrosse team, so Haifa LC was composed of the Israel National team, which used the league play as preparation for the European Championships. Hirsch’s team overcame the lack of preparation and Hirsch’s absence.
“We played our first game without a coach, and having met each other the day before,” said Hymowitz. “We were like a family by the end [of the season]. This game started our bond.”
In the city, most of the community had not previously heard of lacrosse. This summer marked the first year lacrosse was introduced to the youth of Be’er Sheva.
“Most people were more confused than excited at first, because they had no idea what lacrosse was,” said Hymowitz. “People looked at us like we were crazy. We carried six-foot poles and equipment while sporting the same logo as their soccer team (Be’er Sheva FC).”
Be’er Sheva LC’s success promoted the sport throughout the city. Hymowitz and his teammates worked with Sticks for Kids, a program that connected players with local youth through lacrosse.
“Every time we showed up to a school to teach a clinic, the kids were beyond excited, especially as we started to win games and get more recognition,” said Hymowitz. “Some kids even asked for autographs, which was a crazy experience.”
Hymowitz and his teammates also worked with the Be’er Sheva youth lacrosse team that formed in conjunction with the official club team.
“These U15 kids who started practicing and playing when we did had never played lacrosse before,” said Hymowitz. “They were always excited to come out. To see how they progressed and got better over time was great.”
Be’er Sheva won the nationally televised IPLL championship game at the end of the season and finished with a 7-1 record. It defeated Haifa LC once again, in the title round, 11-10, in overtime of the championship game held at Wolfson Fields in Tel Aviv.
After graduating, Hymowitz wants to play for the Israel National team. However, he noted the importance of giving the game of lacrosse to the community.
“The playing aspect was fun for me, but that’s not why we were there,” said Hymowitz. “We were there for the kids. We were there for the kids and the game.”