As an emerging dynasty with four straight titles in Greater Middlesex Conference lacrosse, the South Brunswick High School girls team has seen a steady parade of talent come up through the system.
But that kind of success only comes through hard work, dedication and a strong developmental system. For the past four years, township girls in the second through ninth grade have had the opportunity to learn from current SBHS and college stars as part of the LaxRatz summer program.
"This is about trying to promote the sport of girls lacrosse," said SBHS head coach John Coppola. "There aren't a lot of opportunities for the youth in South Brunswick to learn the game and play lacrosse. For me as a coach, there's a lot of times when players are first learning the sport when they get to high school. So this gives them a chance to play the game at an earlier age, which is very important."
The eight-week LaxRatz program brings girls together twice a week to practice fundamentals, play in games, and above all to have fun.
"For those new to the sport, what benefits them the most is the fact that they're going to get better just by practicing," Coppola said. "By going to clinics and teaching them the proper way to do things, they just get better. But this is not all work because we're having a lot of fun as well, while we're also teaching sportsmanship and teamwork."
Coming off a season which saw SBHS stars like Kelly O'Brien, Casey Armstrong, and Cara Bagley all top 100 career points, the in the state. With current standouts and returning college players on hand at the clinics, Coppola said the young players gain perspective on what it takes to achieve at a high level.
"The fact that they're taught by high school and college female players gives them role models to learn from and identify with," he said. "They may have read about those girls or saw them play. They see how good those girls are and it pushes them to want to play the sport and get better."
As the fastest growing sport in the U.S., lacrosse has become more visible and obviously more popular in South Brunswick. The South Brunswick Youth Lacrosse League started about five years ago and has since grown in scope as the league is starting to become a feeder program for the middle school and high school lacrosse teams.
South Brunswick Youth Lacrosse is part of the Central New Jersey Lacrosse League, which is affiliated with U.S. Lacrosse, so the squads typically play teams from places like Toms River, North Brunswick, Lawrence and Montgomery.
"This has really taken on a life of its own," said in a previous interview. "A few years ago it was an effort just to get kids out to participate because we were butting up against sport powerhouses like baseball and soccer. But now it's evolved to where we just get the message out and there's an interest level that's inherent in a lot of kids. We're getting kids who found baseball boring and they just want to get out and run and hit."
As the sport continues to grow in the township powered by the success of the high school teams, Coppola said the SBYL is looking to continue growing and giving more young girls and boys the chance to fall in love with lacrosse.
"Our focus is to provide township youth with opportunities to learn and play lacrosse," he said. "It's become the number one participatory sport among young students. Through the SBYL we're trying to provide year-round opportunities for boys and girls to play lacrosse."
Follow Patch on Facebook.