Lacrosse gaining ground on Strand’s sports scene

There was a time not so long that students who wanted to play high school lacrosse in Horry County were required to suit up for the Socastee Braves. Just over a decade later, four more Horry County Schools have added lacrosse programs (both boys and girls, varsity and JV) and the number of students playing the sport has multiplied more than tenfold.

The growing trend was on full display Saturday, when Socastee High was once again “the place” to be for high school lacrosse in the area, albeit for a different reason this time. The Fifth Annual Laxapalooza featured six local lacrosse teams (Carolina Forest, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Socastee, St. James and Georgetown County counterpart Waccamaw) taking part in a preseason scrimmage, and showed just how far the sport has come in the area.

Leaning against a chain-link fence and looking out over two lacrosse fields surrounded by players, parents and fans, longtime Socastee coach Matthew Fox recalled how he and a handful of coaches, players and parents first got the ball rolling in 2006. The small numbers forced students from all over the county to play for Socastee’s coed team.

“We had kids from Carolina Forest, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, and they had to drive to and from Socastee every day for practice,” Fox said. “A lot of us from those early days have helped grow the game in the area by coaching and running summer programs. We knew if we could introduce kids to the sport they would fall in love with it.”

Mission accomplished. Only 12 seasons after the county could barely field one coed team, approximately 400 HCS students now play lacrosse at the varsity and JV level. Carolina Forest established boys and girls programs shortly after Socastee, and Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and St. James followed suit in recent years.

So what is it about the stick-and-ball sport, which was founded by Native Americans, that attracts students over other popular spring sports, like baseball, softball, soccer and track? At least in part it’s because lacrosse offers elements of all those sports and others – the fast-paced action of basketball, the physicality of football, and the hand-eye coordination of hockey – for an all-around athletic experience.

“There’s a lot of scoring so it’s fun to watch and even more fun to play,” Fox said. “It has speed and the back-and-forth like basketball. There’s a decent amount of contact like that of football. And because of the different types of positions, we can accommodate many different types of athletes: Tall or short, stocky or skinny, distance-runners or sprinters.  There are so many opportunities.”

That was the part of the appeal for Socastee junior Griffin Byers, a diminutive midfielder for the Braves. He tried football in middle school but simply didn’t have the size needed to excel. After his initial reluctance to put down the pigskin and pick up the stick, Byers attended his older brother’s lacrosse game was instantly hooked.

“I was watching my brother’s game and he absolutely leveled this guy. I was like ‘Is that legal?’ I didn’t know it was that physical,” Byers recalled. “I thought, ‘Maybe this game is for me.’ I went to a lacrosse camp and I loved it. It’s a lot of fun and you don’t have to be tall or big to be good at it.”

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise for the sport locally has been the exploding popularity among girls. Unlike the more established girls sports programs of basketball, volleyball, softball and soccer, which have strong AAU and club-level youth teams, lacrosse has become an outlet for students who haven’t specialized in one sport. Now many are choosing lacrosse over those activities.

“Lacrosse has given a lot kids opportunities to compete in a team sport for their school,” said St. James coach Michael Lesando, whose Lady Sharks went undefeated to the Lower State final last season. “So many kids are playing club sports and focusing on one soccer or softball, they take all the spots. That leaves a lot of good athletes looking for a way they can be a part of a team. … I’ve never cut a kid from lacrosse.”

That could change as lacrosse’s popularity continues to grow. Youth club and summer programs, like the Dune Warriors and Myrtle Beach Wave, have introduced younger players to the game and given them offseason opportunities to play. Organizers are working with Horry County to provide a youth league that would serve as a feeder program for the schools.

“My personal goal is for the Grand Strand to be known for lacrosse in South Carolina,” Lesando said. “Right now we’re kind of the redheaded step child in the state behind Charleston, Columbia and the Upstate, but we’re gaining on them fast.”

Photo by Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

Comments

comments

NMB's Ballard, MB's Coble reconnect at North-South

NMB's Ballard, MB's Coble reconnect at North-SouthA pair of former teammates and rivals joined forces for [more]

Pelicans fail to finish .500 after losing first-half finale

Pelicans fail to finish .500 after losing first-half finaleThe Myrtle Beach Pelicans dropped their final game of the [more]

Ibarrondo comes to rescue to rally first-place Mutiny

Ibarrondo comes to rescue to rally first-place Mutiny The Myrtle Beach Mutiny needed a wake-up call late Saturday [more]

Pelicans split twinbill with Mudcats, play finale today

Pelicans split twinbill with Mudcats, play finale todayAfter the Myrtle Beach Pelicans fell 2-1 to the Carolina [more]

CCU's Biermann, Lancaster make All-American squad

CCU's Biermann, Lancaster make All-American squadCoastal Carolina shortstop Seth Lancaster and designated hitter Zach Biermann [more]

Pelicans lose fifth straight, play doubleheader today

Pelicans lose fifth straight, play doubleheader todayVictor Diaz's seven strong innings for the Carolina Mudcats were [more]

All-County Boys Tennis: Johnson, MB duo top list

All-County Boys Tennis: Johnson, MB duo top listThe future looks bright for the sport of high school [more]

Hess carves his way to Team USA surfing nod

Hess carves his way to Team USA surfing nodCarter Hess carved his way to a spot on the [more]

Pelicans' bullpen spoils Thompson's perfect start

Pelicans' bullpen spoils Thompson's perfect startAfter Keegan Thompson was removed following seven perfect innings for [more]

Piggot feasts, scores four goals to lead Mutiny win

Piggot feasts, scores four goals to lead Mutiny winThe Myrtle Beach Mutiny rolled to a 6-0 victory over [more]

CCU trio makes all-region; Lancaster an All-American

CCU trio makes all-region; Lancaster an All-AmericanCoastal Carolina shortstop Seth Lancaster was named to the Perfect [more]

Braves' icons Avery, Jones to appear at Pelicans game

Braves' icons Avery, Jones to appear at Pelicans gameThe Myrtle Beach Pelicans will welcome former MLB All-Stars and [more]

Coastal guard Labinowicz announces plan to transfer

Coastal guard Labinowicz announces plan to transferCoastal Carolina University men's basketball player Artur Labinowicz plans to [more]

Report: Myrtle Beach Bowl 'near lock' for 2020 kickoff

Report: Myrtle Beach Bowl 'near lock' for 2020 kickoffIn yet another development in the Grand Strand's booming sports [more]

Adaptive surfers depart for US Surfing Championship

Adaptive surfers depart for US Surfing ChampionshipLocal surfers, volunteers, and family members gathered at the Charleston [more]

All-County Boys Golf: MB's Jarman trades bat for club

All-County Boys Golf: MB's Jarman trades bat for clubIf things had worked out differently, Myrtle Beach High senior [more]

Gamecocks' season ends one win shy of Omaha

Gamecocks' season ends one win shy of OmahaThe University of South Carolina baseball team saw its season [more]

Pelicans' Ademan, Pereda, Peyton make all-star team

Pelicans' Ademan, Pereda, Peyton make all-star teamMyrtle Beach catcher Jhonny Pereda, right-hander Tyler Peyton and infielder [more]

Johnson wins at St. Jude, recaptures No. 1 ranking

Johnson wins at St. Jude, recaptures No. 1 rankingFormer Coastal Carolina two-time All-American and Myrtle Beach resident Dustin [more]

Gamecocks slam their way into final game with Hogs

Gamecocks slam their way into final game with HogsThe South Carolina baseball team scored five runs in the [more]

Pelicans win ninth straight, make late run at first place

Pelicans win ninth straight, make late run at first placeThe Myrtle Beach Pelicans racked up their ninth straight win [more]

All-County Girls Soccer: Gordon nets record, POY

All-County Girls Soccer: Gordon nets record, POYBlair Mueller remembers her first day on the job as [more]

Pelicans hammer their way to eighth straight victory

Pelicans hammer their way to eighth straight victoryKevonte Mitchell lashed three extra-base hits and the Myrtle Beach [more]

Gamecocks drop opener, face elimination Sunday

Gamecocks drop opener, face elimination SundayArkansas scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh [more]

Pelicans extend win streak to seven in walk-off thriller

Pelicans extend win streak to seven in walk-off thrillerAramis Ademan tied the game with a three-run home run [more]

NMB's Ballard, MB's Coble reconnect at North-South

NMB's Ballard, MB's Coble reconnect at North-SouthA pair of former teammates and rivals joined forces for [more]

Pelicans fail to finish .500 after losing first-half finale

Pelicans fail to finish .500 after losing first-half finaleThe Myrtle Beach Pelicans dropped their final game of the [more]

Comments are closed.

© 2018 Grand Strand Sports Report · RSS
Myrtle Beach Web Design
Kayaking in Myrtle Beach