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North boys, girls lacrosse teams hope to take next step in second season

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan  (left to right) Luke Printz and Nathan Howell of North Gwinnett High battle for the ball during practice at Gary Pirkle Park in Sugar Hill on Tuesday. This is only the second season which North Gwinnett has had a team as lacrosse is rapidly growing in Georgia.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan (left to right) Luke Printz and Nathan Howell of North Gwinnett High battle for the ball during practice at Gary Pirkle Park in Sugar Hill on Tuesday. This is only the second season which North Gwinnett has had a team as lacrosse is rapidly growing in Georgia.

It's safe to say that while both the North Gwinnett boys and girls lacrosse teams were extremely pleased with their season-opening wins Wednesday night over Archer -- the boys by a 22-0 score and the girls at 19-4 -- they were quite empathetic to their opponents.

After all, the Bulldogs, in their second season as a varsity program in 2012, experienced many of the same growing pains last year that the Tigers will likely experience during their inaugural season this spring.

"I remember our first game last year against St. Pius," North boys coach Christopher Zornes said. "I gave them the whole pep talk about playing in the (program's) first varsity game. I looked at the freshmen and they looked like they were about to be executed."

Of course, the extent to which two Bulldogs' programs experienced those growing pains last year varied.

The girls actually experienced quite a bit of success with a 9-9 record and qualifying for the Class AAAAA state playoffs, but the reality of being a young program kicked in with a 25-4 loss to eventual state champion Milton in the first round.

Now a year old and a year wiser, North girls coach Diane Adams believes her squad is ready to set their sights even higher.

"Last year was our first (varsity) year and we went to the playoffs," Adams said. "So, we've got bigger plans this year. We're really strong (physically) and really fit. ... I think we're full of leaders and we've got an artillery of ladies who can do a lot of different things."

Leading that artillery Adams spoke of is senior attacker Erica Smith, who has accepted a scholarship to play collegiately at Shorter next year, and brings plenty of experience and leadership to the offense.

And with younger players like junior midfielder Sylvia Chou and sophomores Lauren Aycock and Katie Derret adding depth, Adams says she will open up more pages of her team's playbook this year.

"It's going to be fun and interesting, and maybe we can run a few more plays (this season)," Adams said. "And we may be running more zone defenses this year. I think the girls can execute it."

For the boys, the task will be simple coming off last year's inaugural season -- win the close ones.

And Zornes believes the added year of experience and maturity will help the Bulldogs reach that goal.

"We need to step it up in area. We lost five games last year by one goal (each), and we missed the playoffs by one game," Zornes said. "So, we're going to focus on our area games and being a finishing team.

"We only lost about five or six seniors, so we're bringing back almost our entire varsity team, and they've gotten tremendously better. I think our confidence level has gone up. ... This year, a lot of the younger guys feel like they belong."

Like the girls, the North boys will also have a few senior leaders to look up to, like Gwinnett Daily Post Super Six attacker Ronnie Adams, who led the Bulldogs with 53 total points on 31 goals and 22 assists last season, and fellow senior attacker Matt Palmer, who became the first North player in the program's history to commit to a college program after signing with Division II Pfeiffer College in North Carolina.

But also like the girls, the boys also will be boosted by the development of several younger players, such sophomore attacker Luke Printz and midfielder Nico Hepler.