High School South Region: Schedules Are Different, But Lacrosse is Back


Ponte Vedra High School (Fla.) boys’ lacrosse coach Tom West said it best at the start of the season. 

“Greetings from Ponte Vedra, still reigning state champs in Florida,” West said in an email to start the season, referring to his team’s 2019 state title.

It has been almost two full calendar years since the Sharks won the Florida state championship, after only completing eight games on the 2020 schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ponte Vedra entered 2021 as the favorite in the state of Florida and the top-ranked team in the South Region. 

Ponte Vedra has a roster capable of beating anyone in the region, led by Denver recruit Joe Taraboletti, but this year, it will have to prove itself by dominating in-state competition. While in years past the Sharks and other top squads could challenge themselves with interstate matchups, they now are relying on only in-state competition. 

Only a handful of teams in the region have scheduled big road trips because of limitations from the pandemic and safety concerns for student-athletes. One of those that did manage to head out of state was the IMG Academy, which defeated top Texas teams Highland Park, Episcopal Dallas and Westlake. 

In years past, Florida teams like Ponte Vedra would often welcome top northern squads as part of Spring Break trips. 

Milton, the top-ranked girls team in the South, is the overwhelming favorite to win in the state of Georgia, but like most programs in the South, the Eagles are unable to leave the state to try to find stiffer competition. With two of the top players in the region, Marleigh Sanders and Maddie Dora, the Eagles might have been up to the test against nationall recognized programs this year.

“It’s unfortunate that our senior class has not been able to play any out of state opponents these last two seasons because our class is very talented and would have been highly competitive against out of state opponents,” coach Tim Godby said.

Despite scheduling limitations, the program has been able to practice without restrictions other than general social distancing guidelines, according to Godby, and that seems to be the case for most schools in the South. Several coaches in the region said that other than wearing masks and not playing games out of state, it has been a relatively normal season. 

“Our preparations haven’t been hampered too much except for mask wearing, limited numbers in the weight room and fewer preseason workouts,” said Eamon Thorton, head coach at McCallie School in Tennessee. “Our schedule is a little closer to home than usual, but overall it’s still pretty close to normal — well, closer than what I have heard about in other states.”

While many teams in the north are just getting their seasons underway, things are already wrapping up in North Carolina. Teams in the state played a shortened schedule, and the state playoffs began this week. State championship games in North Carolina are scheduled for the end of March, leaving time for the fall sports that were pushed to spring a chance to play their seasons. 

Gordon Galloway, head coach of the Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.) boys’ team, said that “COVID-related issues” caused their season to be delayed by two weeks. Even with the narrow window for games, Cardinals Gibbons won all 11 regular-season games in 2021. 

Now, the Crusaders and other teams in the Tar Heel State look to end a challenging season on a high note — an opportunity they weren’t permitted last year.

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