All You Need to Know About Lacrosse in Pennsylvania: Best 2023 Edition

Lacrosse Runner is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Do you want to know the ins and outs of playing lacrosse in Pennsylvania? Look no further!

We've compiled all about lacrosse in Pennsylvania to get the most out of your experience on the field.

Let's take a look at what makes Pennsylvania one of the best places for youth lacrosse players!


Take Away Key Points:

  • College lacrosse in PA dates back to the nineteenth century
  • College teams and athletes are famous in all types - box, women's, and men's lacrosse
  • Advanced players have different colleges and later leagues to choose from and establish their future career

College Lacrosse in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has been home to men's lacrosse since the nineteenth century. Various men's lacrosse programs include college, high school, and club levels. However, there are significant achievements in the Major League Lacrosse - MLL and National Lacrosse League - NLL.

Let's learn more.

1. Pennsylvania lacrosse: The present

Pennsylvania currently has 6,688 boys and 7,328 girls lacrosse athletes. The professional college teams include 121 teams in all three NCAA divisions, and women's lacrosse is also successful.

Some of the best teams include:

- Bucknell University

- Lafayette College

- Lehigh University

- Penn State University

- Robert Morris University

- Saint Joseph's University

- The University of Pennsylvania.

college lacrosse in pennsylvania

2. Why is lacrosse popular in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania is known for its rich traditions of athletics, and lacrosse is no exception. Long regarded as an important part of the Native American culture and now celebrated across the US, it has become increasingly popular in Pennsylvania in recent years.

A big reason for this is that lacrosse requires many skills. From focus to agility - it's an excellent choice for players of all ages and backgrounds. Furthermore, with teams that practice indoors and outdoors, there's never a shortage of opportunities to play regardless of the season.

In addition, local communities often have strong traditions centered around their teams, creating a sense of connection among players and spectators alike. From its roots in Native American culture to today's thriving clubs across the state, it's easy to see why lacrosse has gained so much emotional appeal in Pennsylvania.

3. Pennsylvania colleges entering lacrosse programs: The past

College lacrosse began in Pennsylvania in the late nineteenth century. Some of the first Pennsylvania colleges to join the lacrosse associations were the University of Pennsylvania and Lafayette College. These colleges joined the varsity squad in 1890. Their first official program and season were in 1900. Lehigh College joined the varsity squad in 1885.

However, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Columbia, Swarthmore, and Stevens entered the USILL lacrosse league, but the USILA replaced it in 1926.

During these years, two Pennsylvania schools, Swarthmore and Lehigh, dominated the men's lacrosse field. For fourteen seasons, these two men's lacrosse teams were famous for earning their place as National Champions of college-level lacrosse. In 1920, the USILA expanded even more, including Penn State, Syracuse, Rutgers, and other college-level teams.

Penn State played its first intercollegiate game against Penn in 1913. However, in 1917, Lehigh defeated Penn and won the USSIL championship, and Swarthmore won four national titles in the early years of lacrosse.

During the 1940s, Penn State even tried box lacrosse, competing with prestigious universities, including Yale. However, during the 1950s and 1960s, the country's lacrosse success, men's lacrosse schools were divided into three divisions:

- Division A - including Johns Hopkins and Navy colleges

- Division B - included Syracuse, Washington College, Baltimore, Loyola

- Division C - included several Pennsylvania universities, including Lafayette, Drexel, Dickinson, Penn, Swarthmore, Penn State, and Lehigh.

Nowadays, the state has many competitive college lacrosse teams at various universities and is the home of four separate collegiate lacrosse conferences. From its origins to now, Pennsylvanian college lacrosse has maintained steady growth over nearly 140 years and looks to continue doing so into the future.

4. Post-season NCAA play

Pennsylvania schools - Lehigh University has won eleven national titles, whereas Swarthmore University won five.

More recently, under the NCAA tournament format in place since 1971, Pennsylvania student-athletes have taken place in many NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship tournaments, including Penn State, Gettysburg, Lehigh Villanova, Kutztown, Cabrini, Bucknell, Drexel, Franklin & Marshall, Kutztown, Messiah College, Penn, Penn State, Swarthmore, and Widener.

In the 1988 NCAA tournament, Penn, led by Chris Flynn and Tony Seaman, was the first Pennsylvania school to reach the semi-finals. The men's lacrosse team lost by one goal difference to the Gait Brothers. They led Syracuse Orange, a prestigious men's lacrosse team in the NCAA Division I. However, Penn entered the NCAA's men's lacrosse six times in the 1980s, including a quarterfinal appearance in 1987.

Pennsylvania University won the NCAA Division II National Title in 2011 when Mercyhurst defeated Adelphi. Mercyhurst played in the 2007 men's lacrosse Division II national finals, losing to LeMoyne. Mercyhurst has entered three Division II finals.

5. Recent NCAA play

Among the most recent achievements in lacrosse programs at the college level sport, the Penn State team was the first in the 2019 NCAA championship and the second-ever Pennsylvania college team to enter the Division I final Four of the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament.

Another prestigious college - Gettysburg, has succeeded in Division III of men's lacrosse three times - 2001, 2002, and 2009. Philadelphia hosted the NCAA's men's lacrosse championships in Division I, Division II, and Division III. Villanova defeated Towson in 2009 and won the tournament.

Drexel was another successful college in 2007, and Lafayette College reached the national number #8 on the NCAA's list.

6. Men's lacrosse university titles

Pennsylvania student-athletes have multiple times been on the throne in the championships. Here are some of the most advanced Pennsylvania colleges ranked higher after winning the titles. The highest rankings belong to:

- Lehigh College: eleven titles

- Swarthmore College: five titles

- Dickinson College: one title

- Mercyhurst College: one title

- Cabrini College: one title

7. Women's Pennsylvania colleges

d2 women's lacrosse schools in pennsylvania

After the first women's USA lacrosse school was established in 1926 in Baltimore school, the USWLA was established in 1931. Penn State University and Lock Haven University entered the women's lacrosse programs in 1965 and 1969.

The Temple and Penn State universities were part of the NCAA Division I and AAIW lacrosse programs. Westchester College was part of Division II, and Franklin & Marshall and Ursinus College were a part of Division III. Thus, Pennsylvania student-athletes won seventeen national titles in women's lacrosse.

Gail Cummings and Marsha Florio are currently the best highest-ranked players in Division I. Katelyn Martin, and Stephanie Kienle are the first and the second highest-ranked players in Division II.

Franklin & Marshall won the Division III title in 2009, and Gettysburg won Division III national title in 2011 for the first time but won it again in 2017. 

Women's college lacrosse titles

Here are some of the most successful colleges in the country:

  • Penn State: five titles
  • Temple: three titles
  • Millersville State: one title
  • Ursinus: three titles
  • West Chester: two titles
  • Franklin and Marshall: two titles
  • Gettysburg: three titles

8. High school student-athletes

Lacrosse development among the high school student-athletes in the private preparatory school or public high school level in Pennsylvania was progressing slower in the 1950s than the progress of collegiate-level lacrosse.

Swarthmore high school and Lower Merion high school were only a couple of Pennsylvania schools offering varsity lacrosse programs. These schools usually played against college-level junior teams.

After developing a state high school lacrosse project by 1965, the Hill school won the first Avery Blake Memorial Trophy. However, since 2001, the Keystone Cup has started. The Cup determines the nationwide champion after three state selectional champions meet and compete.

The first high school lacrosse championship took place in 1973 in Pennsylvania and included Detroit, Annapolis, and Philadelphia teams.

The highest-ranked teams in high school programs include:

- Ridley: six titles

- Penn Charter: five titles

- Lower Merion: seven titles

- Haverford School: five titles.

The Haverford School Fords and the Pennsylvania Prep School were titled National High School lacrosse champions in 2011. The Fords were in the highest rankings, whereas Pennsylvania Public champions - Conestoga finished third and fourth nationally.

9. Pennsylvania professional lacrosse league

lacrosse tournaments in pennsylvania

Philadelphia Wings became the first professional men's lacrosse team performing out of Pennsylvania in 1974. The men's lacrosse team included Gene Hart, John Grant Sr. - the father of the Grant Junior, and a famous Flyer - Doug Favell.

The Wings were popular with more than 10,000 spectators at the Spectrum and reached the league finals in 1974. The original men's lacrosse team folded along with the original NLL in 1975 men's lacrosse.

Box lacrosse Canada/USA/Superseries, an eight-game series, was held at the Spectrum in Philadelphia in 1985. These events increased the overall interest in box lacrosse and were a foundation for the NLL and Major Indoor Lacrosse League.

In 1987, Philadelphia Wings was reformed as a team and won six NLL championships like no other lacrosse team. In later years, famous players were determined to keep the club and tradition, so they were supported by lacrosse fans. Thus, various Hall of Famers, such as Gary Gait, Dallas Eliuk, Paul Gait, and Tom Marechek, were among the greatest lacrosse players who have been part of the team.

The Pittsburgh Bulls played in the NLL from 1990 to 1993, including other legendary players such as Kevin Bilger and Dave Pietramala. Moreover, in 2000, Pittsburgh CrosseFire played a single season until the team relocated and eventually became Colorado Mammoth.

Philadelphia Barrage of Major League Lacrosse 2004 moved from Bridgeport and played until 2008, when they regrouped with three other teams. For the next five years, the Barrage team won three league championships. The team played its home games at United Sports Training Center in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia got an NLL franchise once again in 2018. The new franchise was not associated with the old one and adopted the name Wings.

The Premier Lacrosse League held its first championship game at Talen Energy Stadium after its start in 2019. The place is famous as Subaru Park in Chester. The PLL provides a unique tour-based model. All teams (except those with bye weeks) play at a single venue over a weekend. Finally, in 2021, the MLL and PLL merged into the new lacrosse branch of PLL.

10. Famous Pennsylvania lacrosse college coaches & players

Pennsylvania has a renowned reputation for world-class lacrosse, with many prestigious college coaches and players from its universities in men's lacrosse programs.

The University of Pennsylvania has most notably produced seven NCAA National Titles since 1987, won by coach Tony Seaman. Seaman is one of the greatest of all time, so he earned his place in the Hall of Fame. He also helped to cultivate a string of All-American players, like attackman Ryan Boyle who holds records for career points, goals, and assists, and midfielder JARDLA Lacrosse, as well as many others.

Alumni from the University of Pennsylvania have earned their place in the lacrosse hall of fame. Another notable school with an accomplished program is Villanova, whose head coach, Bjornson Fish led them to eight NCAA tournament appearances.

Penn State is another example, with their current head coach Jeff Tambroni named the 2020 Big 10 Coach of the Year. Regardless of what school they come from in Pennsylvania, these accomplished college coaches and players have contributed to the history and culture of men's lacrosse programs in the state.


Lacrosse in Pennsylvania is an incredible sport with a rich history on college campuses.

Its popularity has been and continues to be growing, bringing more attention and energy through the competition of both men's and women's teams.

From active clubs to varsity sports, lacrosse increasingly makes itself known as an impressive game that enthralls those who watch and play it.

While there will always be the legends of past generations within the esteemed histories of Pennsylvania lacrosse, each season brings on its unique tales that are just as thrilling and compelling.

Freddy Woods

Freddy is the heart and soul of Lacrosse Runner. As a former athlete, Freddy is very passionate about Lacrosse. He keeps up with the sport's changes and innovations and often tests the new equipment released by the leading manufacturers. Read more here