Out-of-state powers drawn to Gwinnett for lacrosse tourney

A couple of lacrosse powers are crossing the border to play in Collins Hill's Peach Fest Invitational, which starts Friday.

South Carolina's 2011 girls state champ Wando and Spain Park, the reigning boys champions from Alabama, are among eight out-of-state teams coming in for the two-day tournament. Wando opens against host Collins Hill at 8 p.m. Friday at Gary Pirkle Park.

"They are really excited," Eagles girls head coach Travis Pearre said of his players. "Last year we had the opportunity to play in the Dogwood Invitational at Westminster and played J.L. Mann and Ravenwood.

"When you grow up in lacrosse, it's a small community and you meet the same people all the time. So it's neat to go up against people from outside the area."

Two other girls games will be played at Peachtree Ridge, which is helping put on the event. Ravenwood (Tenn.) goes up against J.L. Mann (S.C.) at 6 p.m. and Mill Creek is playing Spain Park at 8 p.m. The Peachtree Ridge girls are also in the tournament, but won't play until Saturday. Blythewood (S.C.) committed to the tournament, but had a conflict with Friday's game so is forfeiting that match.

The Mill Creek boys are also opening against Spain Park, which won the Alabama state title last year, at 8 p.m. at Gary Pirkle Park. Grayson and Collins Hill open against a pair of Tennessee teams at 6 p.m. Friday at Gary Pirkle Park. Grayson plays the Baylor School and the Eagles meet the Webb School.

That quality teams from out-of-state are willing to come to Gwinnett for a tournament speaks to the progress the lacrosse programs have made in the last five years.

"You look at the boys and the girls side, you see what Peachtree Ridge and Mill Creek have been able to do," Pearre said. "You see what we try to do in growing our program at Collins Hill.

"You can really see the development of the game and the return of what the Gwinnett youth league has done."

The tournament continues Saturday with the whole slate of games at the Buford Sports Complex. The first games are at 9 a.m.