Colin Achenbach's lacrosse career has come full circle.
The 24-year-old Burnsville native was signed by the Swarm of the National Lacrosse League as a free agent before the 2008 season, making him the team's first Minnesota-born player. Achenbach is, in fact, the 12-team indoor league's only Minnesotan.
"I feel pretty honored to be the first one out and playing professionally," Achenbach said. "I'm real excited about the opportunity and what's going to come out of it."
But it was a challenge for the 2002 graduate of Apple Valley High School to complete that circle. Lacrosse was not widespread in Minnesota when Achenbach was growing up. He began playing in eighth grade in a recreational league at the suggestion of his brother's hockey coach. He played his high school career with the RAVE, an Apple Valley team.
After beginning his collegiate career at Pace University, Achenbach played his final two years at C.W. Post Long Island University, where he was named All-America twice and led the nationally ranked team with 50 points in 11 games.
In his rookie season, Achenbach was on the New York Titans practice squad, then played with the Philadelphia Barrage of Major League Lacrosse, the outdoor league, over the summer. He's still adjusting to the NLL's indoor style of play.
"Outdoor to indoor is quite a transition; you use the same stick, but indoor is played on such a tighter space," Achenbach said. "A lot of it is just getting used to handling the ball and more contact."
The 6-2, 175-pound, righthanded shooter is known for his speed. He played as an attacker in college, but the Swarm plans to use Achenbach in a transition role to take advantage of his athleticism.
Swarm head coach Duane Jacobs hopes that the team, making its home debut at 8 p.m. today at Xcel Energy Center, can build on last year's 9-7 record.
"I think we're ready to go. We made some changes in the offseason, and we think the changes we made make us a better team," Jacobs said. "Hopefully this year our five-men offensive set is going to be a little more productive, but we're pretty happy with our defense and our transition game."
Achenbach has made it a priority to draw the attention of Minnesotans to lacrosse, hoping to give more kids the chance to enjoy it the way he does.
He and lacrosse buddy Aron Lipkin founded Homegrown Lacrosse, a nonprofit that holds camps around the state.
And those camps are becoming more popular with the inclusion of lacrosse in the Minnesota State High School League and the addition of teams from more schools. The MSHSL has sponsored girls' lacrosse as a varsity sport since 2001 but held the first state-sanctioned tournament last season.
Last season was the first boys' lacrosse season sponsored by the MSHSL, and 32 teams participated. According to the MSHSL website, 35 teams will participate in the boys' division in 2008 and 39 schools in the girls' division.
"In Minnesota alone, it went from being a club sport to a sanctioned varsity sport in the five years since I was in high school," Achenbach said. "It's one of the fastest-growing sports across the country. The explosion is only getting bigger and with the professional leagues it's only going to get more exposure."