High School Sports

Fort Mill Yellow Jackets look to capture first state championship

Awesome, unbelievable, excited, teamwork, physical.

Those words were heard often around Fort Mill High school after its girls lacrosse team beat defending state champ Wando on Tuesday and earned a spot in the title game on Saturday against J.L Mann at Lexington’s White Knoll.

The match, which Fort Mill won 16-15 just 57 seconds into sudden death overtime, is the next-to-last goal for the 3-year-old Yellow Jackets. They have their eyes on the championship and want to add another, after the Yellow Jackets boys won last year.

The charge is led by a no-nonsense but caring coach in Nicol Morris, who brought her lacrosse knowledge south from Maryland. Most of the players have been together since Fort Mill started a girls club team four years ago.

Morris became coach with three games left in the 2010 season, which saw the team finish at 9-7. But last in her first full season, the Jackets were 10-2. They are 14-2 this year and ranked No. 1 in the state. The two losses were in tournaments to out-of-state teams.

“Teamwork is the key,” said Morris, who played high school lacrosse growing up in Maryland. “We seem to feed off each other.

“We have scored 299 goals (18.6 per game). Senior Madi Katz is our goals leader with 74, and senior Kirsten Terry has 64. And we have a pair of physical defenders in Dory Wilson and junior Caroline Lewis.”

The team is young, with just five seniors out of 17 players. And they have experience against J.L. Mann, beating the No. 3 Patriots by four goals earlier this season.

But don’t put a lot into the first game. Like other sports teams, good lacrosse squads get stronger as the season progresses. And while it’s the fastest growing sport in the state, with lots of excitement and good players, not that many schools have added lacrosse.

School club teams were told they needed 16 teams (boys or girls) to be recognized by the South Carolina High School League.

“We are in our third season and have 27 girls teams and 28 boys teams,” said Bruce Hallion, an SCHSL associate director. “We have heard Clover is adding teams next year, but that’s the only new school we know of.

“But as long as we have enough teams, we will have a state championship because of the interest. We don’t have many problems with lacrosse; situations like in soccer, except no fights.”

Katz is easily the team’s leader, but credits the teammates she grew up with since moving from Maryland to start eighth grade. She is headed to the University of Georgia on an academic scholarship has been invited to play on the school’s club team.

She said lacrosse is a popular sport in Maryland and that she began playing in kindergarten.

“It’s like soccer is down here,” Katz said, “so when it got sanctioned before my sophomore season, it was good for the teams that wanted a championship. I thought ‘Thank God,’ and was so excited.

“Our goal is to win the championship and do it in the same time period our boys did. They started a boys club team here a year before the girls started.

“Our principal (Dee Christopher) said he’s doing to dress wild on Saturday. One of our team moms got T-shirts made that we have been selling to our boyfriends and students, and the school has been behind us. It’s been exciting.”