'Colorado or Bust' for U15 Teams at US Lacrosse Southeast Championships
|Leah Ruby scored two goals to
help Eagle Stix (Ga.) to an 11-8 win over C2C Dallas (Texas) in U15
play on opening day of the 34-team US Lacrosse Southeast
Championships in Raleigh, N.C.
RALEIGH, N.C. – Leah Ruby did not like the stories she heard from older friends in the Eagle Stix Atlanta (Ga.) girls' program about their performance in the 2013 US Lacrosse U15 National Championships. In Orlando against 31 of the best U15 teams in the country, Eagle Stix labored to a 1-2 mark in pool play and was dispatched in the round of 16 by Yellow Jackets Gold (N.Y.)
Ruby was more succinct.
"They got their butts whooped," she said. "We're all saying, 'We need to go back there and show them what we've got.'"
To do that, Ruby and Co. must first survive the US Lacrosse Southeast Championships, which began here today at the WRAL Soccer Center and continues through Sunday. The task will not be easy, as Eagle Stix joins 15 other U15 girls' teams competing for just four automatic invitations to the US Lacrosse U15 National Championships July 21-23 in Aurora, Colo.
"That's our goal," said Eagle Stix head coach Matt Snyder. "It's Colorado or bust for us."
Ruby got her team off to a good start, scoring twice in an 11-8 win over C2C Dallas (Texas). She scored less than 3 minutes in as part of a 3-0 Eagle Stix run. C2C Dallas rallied and led 8-7 with 19:26 remaining in the game, but Eagle Stix closed on a 4-0 run with Ruby providing the finale on a free-position goal at 5:14.
Likewise, U15 boys' teams reaching the semifinals will receive automatic bids to the national championships with discounts ranging from 25 to 100 percent. Including U13 boys' teams, 34 squads from eight states – Alabama, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia also represented – have ventured to this fourth annual event, one of four US Lacrosse Regional Championships that will help populate the national championship fields.
"We really wanted to challenge ourselves," Snyder said. "Knowing we could come up here and play some of the top teams in the South and throughout the country. There's teams from Texas and Maryland here. You get a good draw and you can see where you are."
Jack Sharman sees where Bamalax (Ala.) is now and is amazed. A member of the program's board of directors and an assistant coach on its U15 boys' team, Sharman estimated more than 1,650 kids involved in the Birmingham area alone, up from about 300 seven years ago when he signed his son, Jackson, up to play.
"The growth has been remarkable," Sharman said. "We're at the point where we're trying to compete on larger stage to see how we do. We wanted to give our players the opportunity to have this experience, but also some opportunities that you can't get by just staying close to home."
Sharman didn't see lacrosse while growing up in Tuscaloosa, Ala., years ago, but he developed an affinity for the sport while a student at Washington and Lee University when National Hall of Famer Jack Emmer was the head coach and the school competed against many current Division I teams.
Sharman credited Bamalax, which brought U15 and U13 boys' teams to the event, founder Chris Cos for his vision of creating a program that allowed kids from different school systems to ultimately play together and develop friendships.
Three goals by attackman Mark Hand powered Bamalax U15 to a 14-0 win over 757 Ironclads White (Va.), while a similar hat trick by Kade Worthen was not enough in a 6-5 loss to Lynchburg in U13 play.
Pool-play games continue Saturday morning. Seeded bracket play begins in the afternoon.
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