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New sport popular with Lady Rebels
The Lady Rebels raise their sticks in solidarity prior to the start of Thursday’s lacrosse match against Richmond Hill at Rebel Field. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
I didn't realize how much fun this game is.
Bailee Wilson, Lady Rebels lacrosse player

 SPRINGFIELD — The scoreboard didn’t lie. It was incapable of telling the whole truth.

Sure, the electronic gizmo in the north end zone at Rebel Field correctly indicated that Effingham County’s girls lacrosse team lost to Richmond Hill 14-3 on Thursday. It didn’t reflect that it was only the second time the Lady Rebels had ever played a game, however.

It looks like lacrosse is going to stick around awhile because Effingham County’s 18 players love it, including softball standouts Bailee Wilson, Francie Gaskin and Sydney Newberry. Newberry tallied all the Lady Rebels’ goals Thursday.

“I didn’t realize how much fun game this is,” Wilson said. 

Wilson, Gaskin and Newberry aren’t used to absorbing lumps like they did against Richmond Hill. They went 21-9 in softball last year en route to the Region 2-AAAAAA title.

“We know we have a lot to work on (in lacrosse) but it is good playing good teams,” Wilson said. “We know what our competition is and we know we have to play hard.”

Head coach Caroline Murphy likes what she has seen from her fledgling team.

“I would say, so far, they are further ahead than a first-year program should be,” she said. “That’s because of them, not me. They are putting in extra effort.

“I tell them to do a few things and they do it all.”

A graduate of Fletcher High School in Jacksonville, Fla, Murphy is a senior Georgia Southern early childhood education student who has played lacrosse since she was two years old. She has competed in Florida, Savannah and the Atlanta area. 

She was leading a club team in Savannah when she learned that Effingham County was interested in fielding a girls lacrosse squad. It has had a boys team for four years.

The boys team was called “Eagles” until this season because the roster always had a few South Effingham players on it. Now South Effingham has its own team.

The Rebels and Mustangs will square off against each other in boys and girls lacrosse for the first time March 20.

Learning how to play the new sport at a high level will take time, Murphy said, especially when it comes to making crisp passes.

Her players agreed.

“We worked out during the summer passing and we still do it every day at practice because it is so important,” Wilson said. 

One of the officials for Thursday’s game, Katie Rowell, wishes she could have stopped the action a few times to offer some helpful tips to the Lady Rebels. She is a sophomore lacrosse player and industrial design major at SCAD.

“I wish it was more like a scrimmage so that we could talk to the players,” she said. 

Rowell was surprised to learn that the Lady Rebels are a club team and not currently affiliated with the Georgia High School Association. All the lacrosse squads in the county hope to achieve that designation soon.

“Lacrosse is a big thing from where I’m from,” the New Jersey native said. “I can tell football is big here by the size of the stadium.”

Wilson and Gaskin are enjoying the change of pace lacrosse provides.

“Usually, you just stick to softball and don’t think about anything else,” Wilson said. “When you try something different, it gives you a new perspective of different athletes and you earn their respect because it is hard for all athletes.”

Gaskin thinks her job as a lacrosse goalie will enhance her hand-eye coordination. She volunteered for the position.

“I like getting hit with the ball,” she said.

Murphy said learning the rules of lacrosse is one of he most difficult things for girls.

“And it’s a finesse game, too,” she explained. “The girls’ game is a lot of stop and go, and the guys’ game is not. When they see the guys’ game — because it is shown more on TV — they think they can come out here, suit up in pads and hit each other but they can’t.”

Murphy believes the Lady Rebels will soon field a competitive team even though some of her best players are seniors. In addition to Wilson, Gaskin and Newberry, the roster includes Katie Altis, Jennifer Garcia, Rylee Pippin, Alexandria Bradshaw, Julia French, Alana Clairmont, Caroline Brumbeloe, Daniela Rodriguez, Fallon Lavigne, Emmie Tallent, Baylee Milton, Adrianah Greene, Laurel Pate, Jessica Hillis, Faith James and Ellie Bennett.

“My juniors are pretty good, too, and I have some really good freshmen and sophomores,” Murphy said. “I think they are going to be really good.

“We’ll get there.”