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July 9, 2018 — Region of the Year

The Region of the Year is awarded to a defined area of the American girls’ scholastic lacrosse map. It can be a league, a city, a geographic region, a county, a section defined by a state governing body, or an entire state.

This year, many of the storylines revolved around a place which has been on the lacrosse map as an up-and-coming area for the last decade. But this year was when Florida truly got onto the national map.

While you can credit the likes of Vero Beach for being unafraid of playing out-of-state teams for the last decade, or credit Florida, Florida Southern, and Rollins for going deep into their respective NCAA tournaments, it was 2018 when Florida came into its own as a maturing hotbed of the sport.

Indeed, for the entirety of the 20th Century in the Sunshine State, a lacrosse stick was little more than a curio kept hung on a wall or in a garage, though, oddly enough, a handful of movies and TV shows, with a Florida setting, featured lacrosse in their storylines.

But the growth in the last seven years in the sport on the girls’ side is incontrovertable. In 2011, there were 89 varsity teams. This year, there were 191.

This included the United States’ first “superprep” team, Bradenton IMG Academy (Fla.). The Ascenders’ inaugural season was moderately successful as the independent team built a 9-3 record. The team won a late-season thriller over Fairfax W.T. Woodson (Va.) by a score of 21-20. A day earlier, however, the team lost to Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.) 15-5.

IMG also met a private-school team from Delray called the American Heritage School. Heritage also played St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes this year back on March 24th, and the Stallions won 12-10.

American Heritage was led by sophomore Caitlyn Wurzburger, the diminutive sophomore whose middle-school verbal commitment to Syracuse led to wholesale changes in the NCAA’s recruitment system (except for football and basketball). In 2018, she repeated a feat that she had accomplished in her freshman and her eighth-grade varsity seasons.

That feat was to score 100 goals and get 100 assists in one season. At the rate she is going, she is threatening to rewrite all offensive record in the history of girls’ high school lacrosse. She already has one major record in hand: she broke the existing record for assists, and will have 332 with two full varsity seasons ahead.

American Heritage won the FHSAA state championship this year, but there is a looming challenge on the horizon. That school is Orlando Lake Highland (Fla.), because the team next year will be coached by Chris Robinson, who co-authored two of the longest win streaks in the history of the game and coached numerous players onto the next level.

As much as this recognition reflects the present, there is plenty of reason why the future is bright in the Sunshine State.

2018 — Florida
2017 — Dallas, Tex.
2016 — New York

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