Wesleyan's Harrison Cheeley (11) and Peachtree Ridge's Julian Gonzalez fight for control of the ball during Wesleyan's victory over the Lions on Saturday.
NORCROSS -- Amid weather so perfectly spring, it seemed even Mother Nature was welcoming Saturday's beginning of a lacrosse tradition in Gwinnett County.
Enthusiasm was palpable throughout Wesleyan's 8-6 win over Peachtree Ridge in the final of the inaugural Gwinnett County Tournament at Greater Atlanta Christian, an event both coaches expect will foster county rivalries and grow the sport's popularity annually.
"To be a part of the start of something like this is incredible," said Lions coach Bob Basher. "We already have rivalries with North Gwinnett, Collins Hill and Norcross in football, and now, this gives us a start for the same in lacrosse."
The Wolves (5-3) reached Saturday's final by beating Parkview 18-0 on Friday and Collins Hill 13-2 on Saturday. The Lions (9-2) came in having downed Norcross 15-2 on Thursday and GAC 11-1 on Saturday. The final before an estimated crowd of 150 proved how competitive the sport already is in Gwinnett, despite six of the tournament's eight teams being in only their first or second season of varsity competition.
The tournament was a chance for Duluth, Grayson, Norcross and Parkview to shine in just their first year of varsity play, and Collins Hill and Peachtree Ridge in their second. Wesleyan and GAC came in as the most established teams, in their eighth and third seasons, respectively.
Saturday's final was tied 5-5 at halftime, but ultimately, Wesleyan's experience proved too much for Peachtree Ridge. Drew Daniels' two goals in 26 seconds put the Wolves ahead 8-5 less than two minutes into the fourth quarter and boosted them to their fourth straight victory.
Daniels' two scores supported a match-high three by Scott Schroer and two by tournament MVP Davis Brown, who crept from behind goal and stuffed both of his just inside the post in the second quarter.
Schroer considered the Wolves' start against the Lions slow, but felt his team played well when it needed to.
"(It's definitely cool to win this first (year)," he said. "Everybody will remember who won the first one."
Peachtree Ridge had led 2-0 a few minutes in on goals by Michael Ruffcorn and Julian Gonzalez, but Wesleyan tied on Schroer's first two goals less than five minutes apart. The Wolves three times erased one-goal deficits in the first half, then used a goal from Schroer with 11:12 left in the third quarter and Daniels' pair to pull away.
Cory Hall scored twice for Peachtree Ridge. So did Tanner Botts, whose second brought the Lions as close as they would come with 15 seconds left.
Wesleyan coach Dave Breslin considered the win a boost for his Wolves, particularly after their 1-3 start.
"I feel we're starting to come into our own element," he said, adding of the sport's popularity in Gwinnett. "These schools are just starting out and are only going to get better."