South Walton lacrosse salutes seniors

SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

"We didn't know what lacrosse was, we were just like, let's join the team," senior Morgan Sanders remembers.

Whatever gear you can scrounge up...

"We wore football shorts that went down to our shins and we rolled them all the way up," fellow senior Annabelle Adkinson recalls.

And losses.

"We were very bad our first year," Sanders says with a smile.

There were a lot of losses, but when you start at the bottom like the South Walton girls lacrosse program did in 2017, there's nowhere to go but up--and more than a thousand miles on the bus.

"We had to go to Pensacola," head coach Luke Hughes admits. "They've got ten years on us. Everything we're doing, we're ten years behind."

Now in their third season, the Seahawks and nearby Seacoast are two of the only schools in Northwest Florida to offer lacrosse. They've come a long way on the bus and a long way in ability.

"I think we came back our next season really fired up," Sanders confirms.

"You watch a lot of film," Adkinson adds. "We had a great coach that came in and had an understanding for the game and wanted to learn as well."

It has been a team effort to grow the game in Santa Rosa Beach and beyond.

"I had to learn whole game! And then as a coach, you're trying to teach the players to play it right but you're also trying to work with the refs to ref it right."

Hughes estimates 200 kids play lacrosse in the area.

"If it wasn't for 30A, our rec ball team, we wouldn't even be where we are now. We picked up seven girls, some of them have been playing rec league for three or four years and other ones have moved in from Colorado, from Washington."

When the program is old enough to look back, they'll have this senior class to thank for picking up and sticking with the sport.

"For a while, we were really miserable because we were losing, we were losing, but we were together, and that made it worth it," Adkinson says.

In the present, the class of 2019 is thankful for each other.

"I've spent three years, every summer, every fall, every season with them and you just become like a family. I'm going to miss them so much."