Legacy Cup draws top girls lax teams to Georgia for early season match-ups

 
By CANDY WAYLOCK

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Eight elite girls’ lacrosse teams from across the nation descended upon Milton, Ga., in late March to take part in an early season tournament centered around the ideals of sportsmanship and comradery.

Hosted by the Milton (Ga.) High School girls team, the 2019 Legacy Lacrosse Cup drew defending state champions from five states – Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Oregon and Virginia – and two state runner ups from Ohio and Virginia, for the March 22-23 competition.

High schools participating this year included varsity teams from Delray Beach, Fla. (American Heritage), Alpharetta, Ga., Milton, Ga., Memphis, Tenn. (Hutchinson), New Albany, Ohio, Lake Oswego, Ore., Langley, Va., and McLean, Va. (Bishop Ireton).

The annual event honors the memory of Milton High lacrosse player, Parker Jackson, who died in 2006 at age 16 in a car accident. The first Legacy Lacrosse Cup was held in 2007, and over the past 12 years has drawn hundreds of boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams from across the nation to celebrate competition and character.

“[Parker] was so well thought of in the school and the community,” Milton head coach Tim Godby said. “He had an impact on everyone. The community wanted to do something to honor him, so his parents started the Legacy Cup.”

In 2018, Milton Girls Lacrosse took on the responsibility for hosting the girls Legacy Cup, continuing the focus on high level competition on the field, and a sense of purpose off the field. (The boys lacrosse Legacy Cup will be hosted by neighboring Centennial High School in Rowell, Ga., April 27-28.)

“This weekend is all about having the girls understanding how to make an impact on other people, their teammates and their peers,” Godby said. “It means a lot to our team. Every year the players make wristbands with Parker’s jersey number, No. 22, on them. It’s a very special event to everyone involved.”

The weekend kicks off with the traditional coaches and players banquet Friday night, featuring music, team-bonding activities, and an inspirational message centered on the history of the event. This year, the guest speaker was Hutchinson (Tenn.) Coach Amber McKenzie, an All-American lacrosse player for the University of North Carolina, two-time gold medal winner with Team USA, and a former coach at Vanderbilt and Furman. 

During her talk to the players, McKenzie urged the players to aspire to the three key elements of the event - competition, comradery and character – which were the pillars of Parker Jackson’s life.

On the field at Bell Memorial Park in Milton, the 2019 Legacy Cup was true to its tradition of nail-biting games between nationally-ranked teams and annual rivals. The Saturday afternoon game between Bishop Ireton and Milton featured constantly changing leads over the 50-minute game, ending in a 15-13 win for Milton in the final few minutes.

Earlier that day, Bishop Ireton battled the nation’s top-ranked team, American Heritage, in a low-scoring, defensive game which ended in an 8-3 win for the Florida-based Stallions.

Despite the 0-2 weekend, Bishop Ireton Coach Rick Sofield had only praise for his team’s fourth appearance in the Legacy Cup Tournament.

“We love coming down to play top national competition in an environment that honors the spirit of the game,” said Sofield, whose team is the defending Virginia Independent Schools state champions. “We couldn’t have asked for a better experience. We learned a lot about ourselves and our team by playing two great teams…and the camaraderie among the players from all over the country was amazing.”

Milton’s crosstown rival, Alpharetta High School, split its games, winning its match against Hutchinson before losing to New Albany (Ohio). Coach Brandon Allen said the tournament is much more than simply playing lacrosse; it’s also about building lasting friendships.

“The dinner on Friday night where all the teams come together is great fellowship, and the girls get a chance to know one another off the field and not just in the heat of competition,” said Allen. “The history and the messages are just as important as high-quality game play.”

For several teams, the Legacy Cup Classic served as an early season tune-up while they waited for warmer weather back home to fully kick off their seasons.

Lauren Anderson, head coach for Lake Oswego, said the reputation of the Legacy Cup spurred her to make the cross-country trek from Oregon to Georgia to see how her West Coast team stacked up against teams from the South and East.

“[The tournament] was awesome - we loved that we got to play against great teams, learned a lot, came away with a win and I think surprised a few people that a little school from Oregon played such good lacrosse!” said Anderson, who brought a team of 16 players, nine of whom are relatively new to lacrosse.

Lake Oswego lost to Milton and Bishop Ireton – both nationally ranked powerhouses – before winning its third game against Hutchinson.

“We always seek to play teams that are better than us,” said Anderson. “It’s not about the wins – it’s about great competition and learning from being pushed by stronger teams.” 

A chance to play highly competitive games in a more temperate climate also prompted teams from Ohio and Virginia to travel south to Georgia.

New Albany (Ohio) Coach David Ferguson was a new entry into the Legacy Cup, but knew the event attracted top ranked teams across the nation. His team of 22 players came away with a 1-1 record, and a good first impression.

“We really enjoyed the tournament, competition, and the hospitality of the community and tournament hosts. It was a well-run tournament,” said Ferguson, whose team went 21-2 last season and ended as the state runner-up champion (Division One).

The team from Langley (Va.) High School was also a first-time participant in the Legacy Cup, and is already planning to return for next year’s event.  The team went 19-4 last season, and ended the year as the state runner up champions in Class 6.

“We had a lot of fun and our players bonded well and played well,” said Coach Bucky Morris. “We went 1-1, beating a good New Albany Ohio team 16-13 and losing to a really good American Heritage team. We are definitely planning to return next year!”

With the 2019 Legacy Cup now in the record books, Milton Coach Godby is already looking ahead to next year with the goal of maintaining much of what has made the event successful for the past 18 years.

“For the future, I think we try to continue to do the same plan,” said Godby, who is now focused on winning the Georgia state lacrosse championship for the 13th time. “We hope to continue to draw some of the top teams from around the country to participate and continue to share the message of what the Legacy Cup is all about.”

Legacy Cup