Three years ago, Grant Loftin excitedly anticipated the next chapter in his life. As he entered his freshman year at Arcadia High School, he was looking forward to different experiences and meeting new people. But he did have one regret about the high school he would be attending.

“They didn’t have a lacrosse team at all,” said Grant. “That was a bummer at first.”

Grant had played since seventh grade and loved the sport. But instead of saying goodbye to lacrosse and looking for other teams to join, Grant came up with a crazy idea: Starting up a lacrosse team as a freshman in high school.

“It seemed like a great opportunity for me to keep playing lacrosse and to bring the sport to more people,” noted Grant. “But through the process I ended up learning so much about patience and trust. Plus, trying to get older kids and adults to listen to a freshman in high school.”

Right away there was support for Grant in his venture. He approached Arcadia High School Athletic Director Kevin Mooney to see what he thought. Although Mooney couldn’t promise funds, Grant remembers him being extremely helpful and encouraging.

“Right away, he said it sounded like a great idea,” said Grant. “Mr. Mooney said he didn’t know if the idea was possible, but we would try.”

“The school doesn’t recognize lacrosse as an official sport,” said Heidi Loftin, Grant’s mother and managing director of Arcadia Lacrosse. “There is no funding from the school and we pay to rent the field. But the school has been incredibly helpful and they let the kids wear the Arcadia name and identify by Titans. And we follow all the student athlete requirements, checking grades and holding kids accountable.”

Grant began by approaching athletes in other sports and trying to convince them to come out for lacrosse. He also campaigned for Stephen Weis as a coach, whom Grant met while playing for a summer travel team in eighth grade.

“It was interesting at first, trying to get juniors and seniors to listen to you as a freshman,” Grant admitted. “I guess I learned how to make older people value my opinion. I was pretty sure athletes would have fun if they tried lacrosse.”

The team started at the bottom, playing junior varsity with 23 players in year one. But they’ve been on the fast-track since then, moving up to Division II level the following year with 31 kids and splitting 50 kids between varsity and junior varsity teams this year. Many of the students who play were new to the sport coming into Arcadia Lacrosse.

“Coach Weis understood we would be competitive eventually,” said Grant. “He would say at first that the goal isn’t to build the perfect house immediately but to do it brick by brick.”

Off the field, the school and community rallied around lacrosse. Since the Arizona Interscholastic Association doesn’t sanction the team, they have to find their funding elsewhere.

“This has been such a group effort,” said Heidi. “We’ve had people donate gear, raise money and help kids who can’t afford to play to get scholarships. The kids go out themselves and solicit local businesses.”

Grant agreed, “The support from the school and parents has been really unbelievable. People hanging up posters, working the snack bar, helping with the field.”

The hard work paid off this season, as the varsity team went undefeated against Division II teams on their way to winning the state championship. In just three seasons, Arcadia Lacrosse went from just an idea to the top of the heap.

“I remember after the game hugging Coach Weis and saying we did it,” Grant reflected. “It was a really special moment to think about how far we’ve come in such a short time.”

The team is getting their final bump up to Division I next season. They aren’t expected to win a championship right away in the state’s biggest division, but clearly it would be dangerous to underestimate Arcadia Lacrosse at this point.

“I’m sure we’ll be under the radar next year,” said Grant. “But I know we’ll be competitive. We all trust in our coaches and staff to make sure we’re ready. I think we’re going to surprise people.”