posted 06.17.2011 at 2.00 p.m. by Paul Krome

US Lacrosse Welcomes 49 Teams for U15 Southeast Regionals

Forget the pine trees, I knew I wouldn't be comfortable with my return to Raleigh, N.C., until I spotted a Steak 'n Shake. Mission accomplished, and it's not far from the CASL Soccer Complex.

Welcome to Raleigh for the 2010 US Lacrosse Southeast Regional Championships and Lax Fests, presented by Champion.

Let's set the table for this inaugural event, which is actually two events wrapped into one.

Forty-nine boys' and girls' lacrosse teams from nine states have made their way to the Research Triangle in the latest example of the growth of the game in the Tar Heel State. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association recently sanctioned the sport, and a Major League Lacrosse team will begin play in Charlotte, N.C., in 2012.

Most of the teams are from the East (North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Kudos to coach Amy McCleary for helping to bring multiple teams from Northern California.

Teams at the U11, U13 and U15 age levels are participating in the Lax Fests, participation-based events that trace their roots to the former National Junior Lacrosse Association festivals of the 1990s. The NJLA was one of several organizations to merge to form US Lacrosse Jan. 1, 1998.

Some U15 teams here are competing for an automatic bid to the third annual US Lacrosse U15 National Championships, also presented by Champion, July 20-24 as part of the ESPN Rise Games in Orlando. Winners here will claim the title of Southeast Regional Champions and receive free registration to the national championships, where they will join top finishers from the US Lacrosse West and Central Regionals and at-large teams.

This marks the first year the US Lacrosse U15 National Championships expanded to begin with regional championships.

Some background on the national championships. The event began in 2009 in Bel Air, Md. Check-Hers 2012 (Md.) defeated Stars Gold (Va.) in the girls' championship game, 19-12, and FCA (Md.) beat For the Love of the Game (N.Y.) in the boys' final, 10-9 in overtime. Last year at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, FCA and For the Love of the Game again met in the final, but this time FCA cruised, 17-4. Stars Gold returned to the girls' final in 2010 but couldn't stop the Yellow Jackets (N.Y.), falling 12-5.

Here on the U15 boys' side is Dolphin Elite (Fla.), which participated in the 2010 US Lacrosse National Championships. Dolphin Elite finished 1-2 in pool play before advancing to the consolation bracket final.

The Georgia girls, also here, competed in last year's national event as well and will try to gain the program's first tournament victory this time around.

Look for more from Raleigh on LaxMagazine.com and twitter.com/paulkrome.

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