The Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Association (MSLA) was formed in the early 1970s by coaches from Michigan, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania seeking to formalize a scheduling process and gain recognition for their fledgling lacrosse programs. Gene Reilly of Detroit Country Day School, Dick Jones from Western Reserve Academy, John Galipault, Sr. of Worthington, along with representatives from Lake Ridge Academy, Shady Side Academy, and L’Anse Creuse Lacrosse Club was instrumental in the organization of the association.
The history of the tournament is a bit muddled by the fact that the 1972 champion is listed as L’Anse Creuse, but there was no tournament or league schedule including all teams at that time. By 1973, the scheduling process was settled and the first tournament was held at WRA, with WRA winning the finals over Worthington in a driving rainstorm that rendered the field a mud pit. In 1974 the tournament was hosted by Worthington with early-round games also played in Upper Arlington. This second annual tournament could easily have been the last since lightning struck the field where the official Paul Caldwell had just suspended play between Shady Side and Worthington because of the weather. All players, coaches, and spectators were knocked to the ground, but fortunately, there was only one serious injury—a Shady Side player broke his arm. There were, however, dozens of people with a newfound respect for the danger of lightning, and an article in Sports Illustrated, as well as a stickler with a protocol in case of thunderstorms in the 1975 lacrosse rule book, took note of the incident. In that fateful game, all the players were using wooden sticks with the exception of Worthington’s three defensemen on the field, none of whom were standing with their sticks perpendicular to the ground. For the next decade or so, the tournament was rotated among the three states in an effort to promote the sport throughout the Midwest. By this time, Sewickley, Cranbrook, and Upper Arlington had joined the association and took their turns in hosting the year-end event.
In 1985, Western Reserve Academy started hosting the tournament since its location was the most central to all teams involved. By this time, the tournament had gone to a Friday and Saturday schedule with two brackets. Skip Flanagan, WRA’s headmaster, provided an outstanding facility for the tournament for 27 years.
The fact that Michigan (122 high school and 17 club teams), Ohio (102 high school and 24 club teams) and Western Pennsylvania (39 teams) all have their own state associations because of the phenomenal growth of the sport, is evidence that the founders of the MSLA were truly visionaries who made great things happen for the sport of lacrosse in the Midwest.