Lacrosse is a relatively unheard of sport in the state of Tennessee, let alone in Cleveland.
The sport’s lack of popularity in the area wasn’t a factor for Cleveland’s own Raygan Hall, who is a senior at the Girls Preparatory School.
Hall, who has been at GPS since eighth grade, wound up getting involved in the girls’ lacrosse team during her sophomore year after accepting that basketball just wasn’t her sport.
“I have only been playing since my sophomore year. I played basketball, but I can now admit that I wasn’t very good. A bunch of my friends played, and they needed a JV goalie so I decided to go out and try it,” Raygan explained. “At first they had me in the field playing defense. Then they needed a goalie for a game, my coach took a few shots at me and told me that I was going to be playing in goal for that game. I really started to get the hang of it, played on the JV team, and then towards the end of that season I started playing varsity.”
Despite having very limited knowledge of the sport, Hall’s parents were supportive of their daughter’s choice to play lacrosse.
“We knew absolutely nothing about it, except that it is supposedly the oldest sport in the U.S. Today, almost three years later we only know maybe 50 percent more than we originally knew,” Raygan’s father Brent explained. “The idea of your daughter facing shots at 60-70 mph with a solid rubber ball that is heavier than a baseball is a bit frightening for a parent.”
The constantly changing atmosphere of the sport was one of the draws for Raygan.
“Lacrosse is the most fast-paced sport that I’ve ever seen. There is always something going on and someone hitting someone else,” Raygan said.
As a goalie, 17-year-old Raygan is the last line of defense for her team. While some may consider that a stressful position, Hall has learned how to handle the pressure.
“At first, because I wasn’t that confident in my ability; I always got really nervous before games. Now that I’m more comfortable with my stick skills and am better at handling the ball, I’m much more confident going in,” Raygan explained. “Sure, I still get frustrated over some things, but my coach told me that you have to have the memory of a goldfish, and they can only remember things for three seconds. That really started resonating with me this year. If someone scores a goal I just let it go and focus on what is to come.”
For the 15 games that she has played in this year, Raygan has 147 saves for a 50.9 save percentage.
In a game against fouth ranked Ensworth, Hall posted a game high 18 saves.
Nearly three years ago, the young goalie didn’t even think that continuing on her lacrosse career was an option.
Now, a distant thought has become a definite reality.
Making a commitment to the sport has paid dividends for Hall, who recently signed with Gardner-Webb University, a NCAA Division I school in Boiling Springs, N.C.
Hall will be a part of the inaugural season for the university, as their newly formed women’s lacrosse team will begin playing in the 2014-2015 season in the Big South Conference.
“I’m really excited. At first I didn’t ever think that I would be able to play at that level, but then I started looking at my options, and it became a real possibility. Towards second semester last year, I got really excited about it,” Hall commented. “Three of my top four schools were Division I and all in the same conference. It was a hard decision. I had it narrowed down to Liberty University and Longwood University and Center College, which is a D-III school. Then I went to Gardner-Webb, and it blew the others out of the water.”
To date, Raygan Hall is the first Bradley County resident to sign with a college to play lacrosse.
Currently, there are 34 girls lacrosse teams scattered throughout the state.
Out of those 34 teams, GPS is currently ranked eighth and is first in the Tennessee Central East region, according to laxpower.com, which is a website that oversees lacrosse action all over the country.
Hall credits God’s divine plan with leading her to where she is today and credits lacrosse with helping developing her character.
“Lacrosse has shown me what my character is and things that I need to change about it. I’ve learned to control my temper, have good sportsmanship and be a good team player. You learn how to rely on others and to not want to take all the credit. The credit has to go to the whole team,” Hall declared.
As her senior season has drawn closer to the end, Raygan has many happy memories to carry on with her.
“I have such a great group of girls on my team, so some of my favorite memories involve the things we’ve done like team bonding and bus rides. Also, this season we’ve beaten two teams that have never before been beaten in the history of GPS lacrosse, which are Harpeth Hall and Ravenwood. Both of those games were played at Sewanee, which must be good luck for us,” Hall said.
In their final regular game of the season, GPS defeated the University School of Nashville 16-12 on Saturday. Hall had 12 saves in that game.
GPS will begin lacrosse playoffs next weekend, and Raygan hopes to help take her team all the way to the final four or championship game.
“Hutchison has won the state championship four years in a row and no one has beaten them this season. They are the toughest competition out there,” Hall explained. “We’ve stayed pretty even with all the other teams. I think we have to potential to make the final four and even the championship game. I do want to win it all, but my realistic goal for this season is to make it to the final four.”