Life on the lacrosse field came full circle Saturday for a pair of former Forsyth County standouts now playing at NCAA Division I schools.
Renee Blais (North Forsyth, 2010) and Taylor Hagin (West Forsyth, 2010) returned to Cumming for what was only the second intercollegiate Division I women’s game played in Georgia, pitting Presbyterian College against the University of Louisville at West Forsyth High School. The Wolverine Den hosted the first such game played in the state last spring between Louisville and Jacksonville State.
“It’s surreal,” said Blais, a defenseman for Presbyterian. “Coming back here on the bus ... I was almost tearing up a little bit because I’ve had memories here playing [for] North against West.”
The contest was part of a series of lacrosse events promoting the sport Saturday at the field, beginning with a varsity game in which West’s girls edged Marist 11-10.
Immediately after the collegiate contest, Blais and Hagin — a midfielder for Louisville — joined their teammates in conducting the Southern Draw youth lacrosse clinic, which hosted 172 girls.
A stress fracture in Hagin’s foot prevented her from playing on her old field, while Blais and Presbyterian suffered a 20-3 loss after surrendering the final 16 goals unanswered, but both players were upbeat afterward and said the day was about more than the game itself.
“Now we’re doing this clinic and helping these girls and everything, and that’s how I got started,” said Blais, who began playing the sport in seventh grade before she and Hagin became part of the first girls middle school team in Forsyth County.
“To come back and be able to do this for them is awesome.”
Hagin, currently sidelined in a walking boot, said she had been trying to make it back and play Saturday, but the nature of her injury makes a timetable for her return more difficult to predict. She said redshirting this season remains an option.
Hagin received a loud ovation from the almost 1,000 fans in attendance and spent much of her time videotaping the game from the sideline.
“It was really weird coming back and being back on this field with the team,” Hagin said.
“I was really excited to be back and see all the fans. It was kind of a bummer that, obviously I couldn’t play, but it was still a lot of fun and so cool that we got to come here and do this.”
At halftime, event organizers also announced rosters for the Galaxy Elite and Galaxy Select, Forsyth County resident-based summer travel teams associated with Lacrosse of the South (LOTS). The teams are open to girls who are rising ninth graders through rising seniors.
The Galaxy Select, led by the county’s high school coaches, will consist of multiple developmental teams and participate in regional tournaments. Hagin and West assistant coach Nicki Runfola-Greenlalgh will coach the Galaxy Elite, a team featuring some of the top local talent, in national tournaments.
“That’ll be a lot of fun,” said Hagin. “This [team] is here specifically for Forsyth County, so I’m really excited to help grow the sport here.”
Hagin’s stepfather, Dobbin Prezzano, is the founder and director of LOTS and a former West booster club president. He worked with West girls coach Dan Kaplan to pitch the idea of the summer travel teams to the county’s other high school coaches and remains active behind the scenes trying to grow the sport locally.
Prezzano said apart from the Big East tournament, the crowd at West on Saturday is probably the largest that either Louisville or Presbyterian will play in front of this season.
Presbyterian is scheduled to play again at 2 p.m. today at the West field against Bryant University, and Louisville will return this summer to conduct a camp.
“The feedback that we got from the [colleges] ... it’s just been phenomenal,” Prezzano said.
“I really appreciate them making the effort to do it, but for them, it’s also a no-brainer.”