Area players shine in lacrosse at Sunshine State Games

Mary Kai Patterson, with the Gainesville-based team Pipeline, drives the ball up field during the Sunshine State Games on Sunday.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, June 9, 2013 at 11:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, June 9, 2013 at 11:49 p.m.

When Tom Yonge founded Gainesville's first youth lacrosse club for girls last year, he just wanted to keep things fair in his household.

Though his son Phillip competed nearly year round for both Oak Hall School and the Florida Generals travel squad, Yonge's daughter Mason was resigned to playing her favorite sport for a handful of months.

“She loves to play,” Yonge said. “Part of it was we're going to be traveling to all these boys tournaments anyways, so let's put together a girls team and the girls can play as well.”

Since Pipeline Lacrosse debuted with 15 players at the 2012 Sunshine State Games, the team's number has swelled to 40 active members, according to Yonge. As the only local girls squad at this year's event, Pipeline Lacrosse reached the bronze medal match on Sunday in the under-15 division, before falling 8-5 against the St. Augustine Lady STARZ.

Yonge credits part of the squad's growth to introducing new coaches Nicole White and Jackie Schaefer last month. White and Schaefer also coach the Gainesville High girls varsity team and play club lacrosse at the University of Florida.

“We realized a lot of the girls in the area were only playing lacrosse four months out of the year,” White said. “We're both from big cities where they have lacrosse that is available to youth year-round, so we obviously wanted to bring it to the Gainesville area.”

While this year's Sunshine State Games featured 43 total teams and more than 1,025 players competing in Alachua County, the two-day tournament included just eight girls squads.

In the boys lacrosse competition, there were a total six area teams entered into the tournament's five age categories, culminating with the Lacrosse Club of Gainesville winning the high school “A” division title game, 6-4, over the Florida Generals.

Even with the small turnout in two girls divisions, Schaefer said the opportunity to compete on the pristine fields of UF's Dizney Stadium — one of the event's three sites — was a major drawing point for many of the club's players who follow the Gators women's lacrosse team.

Led by top scorer Britney Beerbower, a seventh-grade attacker, and midfielder Mary Kai Patterson, Pipeline Lacrosse was able to play two of its five games at the stadium.

“For a lot of the girls, their parents will take them to the game, and they'll be like, ‘Oh, lacrosse is awesome,' ” Schaefer said. “A lot of the girls down here have never seen lacrosse before. Then they see it at that level, and they want to do it.”

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