Lacrosse: Previewing the state playoffs

ajc.com

Will growing sport produce champion other than traditional powers?

The state playoffs start this week, with the first round to be played Wednesday and Thursday. Round 2 starts May 2. Two years removed from the pandemic wiping out the season, GHSA lacrosse is back and stronger than ever.

In 2005, the first year the GHSA officially recognized lacrosse champions, there were so few teams competing that there was no need for more than one classification. In 2010, the sport had grown to the point of the current setup — two classifications — but the state tournaments were a 16-team field. In 2017, the high class state tournament expanded to a 32-team field, and in 2019 the low class followed suit.

According to numbers provided by the GHSA, there were 37 boys teams and 35 girls teams for the inaugural season. This season, 137 schools have a lacrosse program.

The sport has grown in Georgia beyond high school. In 2016, the Georgia Swarm played their inaugural season in the National Lacrosse League. This year, the Swarm are the official sponsors of the GHSA lacrosse state tournaments for the first time.

While the sport is growing exponentially within the GHSA, it’s the newer programs that are playing catchup to the traditional powers. Coaches of both the traditional and up-and-coming programs have noted the competitive gap between the two is closing, and that there’s more parity than ever.

When it comes to the playoffs, however, it’s almost always been the same usual suspects taking home the hardware.

On the girls’ side, all champions went on to repeat at least one time, with the exception of Chattahoochee in 2009, Walton in 2016 and Starr’s Mill in 2019. Milton defines girls lacrosse, having won the high class every year except for when Chattahoochee and Walton beat them. Should Milton, again ranked No. 1, win state this year, it would be the Eagles’ 15th title. In the low-class, Westminster and Blessed Trinity each have four titles, with Kell and Starr’s Mill the only others to win it all.

On the boys’ side, Centennial (2013) Northview (2014) and Allatoona (2016) are the only programs to win state just once. Westminster leads the way with six titles, followed by Lambert (5), Lovett (3), Milton (2), Walton (2), Roswell (2), Blessed Trinity (2) and Lassiter (2).

Will there be enough parity this year to produce a first time champion?

The rankings would suggest the same as usual. The Lambert and Lovett boys, and the Milton and Blessed Trinity girls are the current No. 1s. There are others, however, that could make some noise. The Pope boys are No. 2 in 1A-5A, and Wesleyan is No. 2 in 6A-7A. On the girls’ side, Hillgrove (6A-7A) and Westminster (1A-5A) are No. 2. All are seeking their first titles.

To see how the teams fared in Round 1, check back Friday.

Below are stories on some of the state’s top teams as they were covered during the season: