It's America's oldest sport and it is beginning to gain interest in York County.
It's called lacrosse and to Northern transplants, it's nothing new. In the South, however, this game that seems to combine elements of hockey, soccer, rugby and even a little baseball is attracting eager players. Partly due to the increasing number of club teams in parts of the state and the South Carolina High School League's decision to officially sanction the sport, teams are beginning to pop up in Fort Mill.
"We're really excited. There has been a movement to get the sport sanctioned for a while," said Janet Alford, president of the newly formed Fort Mill Lacrosse Club.
Having lacrosse officially sanctioned in the state is a big step. It means high schools will begin to start their own teams if there's enough interest and the SCHSL will hold playoffs and a championship every year. For now, Fort Mill and Nation Ford high school students will be playing together on the Fort Mill club team, but separate high school teams could be formed as early as next year.
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"Like any sport, we'll have to sit down as a school district and find out what kind of financial support we can get," said Nation Ford Athletic Director Brian Turner. "Lacrosse is the next hottest sport across the nation and a lot of kids are already involved. We're happy to help out the club team. Any activity that gets kids involved in competition - we're all for it."
Alford said all local high school or middle school students - boys and girls - are welcome to sign up for the team. The girls team is open to students in grade six and up and for the boys, they have to be in grade seven or higher. Alford said she decided to create the lacrosse club after meeting Amy Katz, who coaches the club's girls team, while their daughters were playing together on a team in Matthews, N.C.
"The boys team was actually started three years ago," Alford said. "We approached them to see about forming a girls team as well."
Katz said the enthusiasm on her team has made coaching really enjoyable.
"I've been very impressed," Katz said. "Ninety percent of the girls had never played before but they have learned quickly."
Katz said this would be the first year the girls will have an official varsity team.
"It's been really fun. I've gotten so much better," said Alex Oliver, the only senior on the girls team. "It's much more organized this year and we should have a high school team. Last year, we were all thrown in together (with the middle school team)."
Oliver, who had never played lacrosse before last year, said the uniqueness of the sport is what drew her to it.
"Down South you don't really see a lot of lacrosse," said junior Farrah Bui. "It's pretty intense. I don't know what it is about lacrosse, you just have to play it. It takes a lot of skill," she said.
The Fort Mill club teams will play a 12-game season, plus tournaments and a few extra games against Charlotte-area teams, Alford said. Blythwood, AC Flora, White Knoll and Spartanburg are schools that will make up the conference, but that number will likely grow as more schools add teams.
Registration for the Fort Mill Lacrosse Club teams will take place from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 10, at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Fort Mill.
In Tega Cay, an organization called Planet Lacrosse will organize teams as part of the Carolina Lacrosse Association. The teams will compete against six or eight other teams in the Charlotte area, according to Victor Barbieri, director of Planet Lacrosse.
The Tega Cay teams will be open to younger kids, but middle school students are welcome, too. The boys will be divided into four age groups: Under nine, under 11, under 13 and under 15. The girls will be divided into two teams, grades three to five and six to eight. The groups will play around 10 games in the spring, Barbieri said.
"We really want to get this rolling. It's very exciting," Barbieri said. Registration will begin this week. For more information, call Barbieri at 493-0451.