ZEBULON — Don’t look now, but an alternative spring sport is spreading to eastern Wake County.
Lacrosse is already entrenched in places like Apex, Cary and Chapel Hill, but it is relatively new to Zebulon and the surrounding area. Co-directors of the Carolina Youth Lacrosse Club (CYLC) Jamie Riedel and Jay Boriotti run their one-year-old program out of Wake Forest, but they’ve held successful camps, clinics and travel team tryouts in Zebulon.
“It’s exploding out of this area right now,” Boriotti said. “We want this to be the next area that becomes a hotbed.”
Boriotti and Riedel, who also coach at Heritage High, are no strangers to lacrosse hotbeds. Boriotti is from Long Island and Riedel is from upstate New York – two of the biggest lacrosse incubators in the country. Their vision to turn an area like Zebulon into the next big lax hub is not unfounded, as evidenced by the number of local athletes that have enrolled in the various events their program organizes.
Last year, 46 children signed up for a camp held by CYLC at Wakelon School Park in Zebulon. The organization, in conjunction with Zebulon Parks and Recreation, held another youth lacrosse camp last week.
Riedel believes CYLC has only scratched the surface of lacrosse’s potential in Zebulon.
“It’s in its infancy,” Riedel said of the game’s growth so far. “It’s brand new, so we’re pretty excited about it. We have a lot of support from the families, people in the surrounding area – teachers, athletic directors. It’s actually awesome.”
Even before the formation of CYLC a year ago, Riedel ran youth lacrosse camps out of Zebulon. Three years ago, the turnout for these camps was minimal. The steady growth since then, however, has Riedel encouraged that the sport has a place in this area.
One of the reasons Riedel believes it has taken so long for lacrosse to take off in Zebulon is because there are simply not enough people educated about the sport, resulting in a lack of fit instructors.
“I don’t think we have enough people with experience or exposure,” Riedel said. “In North Raleigh, we saw the same exact thing. We didn’t have a lot of coaches in the beginning, but once the parents started to recognize the sport and get familiar with it, it started to evolve. We started to see coaches popping up.”
Lacrosse is often referred to as “the fastest game on two feet,” and the speed of the game is the exact characteristic both Boriotti and Riedel singled out as the factor leading to its surging popularity. It is a high-scoring, contact sport with aspects of hockey, football, basketball and soccer all mixed in – yet it retains a flavor all its own.
For young people who haven’t excelled in more established sports or are just looking to try something new, picking up a lacrosse stick may not be the worst idea in the world.
“It’s great to see that kids have another option other than the traditional sports,” Riedel said. “It’s a very addicting sport once you get the hang of it.”
It will take a few more years for Zebulon and the surrounding towns to reach the caliber of lacrosse played by their counterparts to the west of Raleigh. Through the work CYLC does in eastern Wake County, however, matching that level of popularity is becoming a more realistic possibility.
“It might take two or three more years,” Riedel said of Zebulon lacrosse’s impending boom. “But I definitely do see it making its appearance some time in the near future.”
Boilard: 919-829-4816; Twitter: @easternwakenews