Preview: Brine King of the Spring Face-Off Classic

In only its second year, the Brine King of the Spring Face-Off Classic has quickly emerged as one of the premier boys' lacrosse showcases in the country.

Set to get underway this Friday in Durham, North Carolina, and continue through next Wednesday, the field features 18 teams this year from seven different states, including 2010 state champions from Tennessee (McCallie School), Texas (Highland Park) and North Carolina (Charlotte Country Day). Duke University, the City of Durham,, and Great Atlantic Lacrosse Company have all partnered with Brine to host the second annual event.

Perennial Texas lacrosse power St. Mark's is just one of the many teams competing in this year's Classic. For Lions head coach Hayward Lee, it was an easy decision to make the trip to Durham.

"We're really looking forward to the competition and building healthy relationships with teams we're playing," said Lee, whose squad is participating in the event for the first time. "We face four very good teams that will stretch us, expose some weaknesses and ultimately help us develop into a better team. I think that all growth is a product of challenge, and this event poses as one heck of a challenge."

The tournament site of Durham has proven to be quite popular with participating programs for its ideal weather and central location. Also, the tournament's proximity to leading college institutions like Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill adds an extra bonus, allowing players and their families to visit local campuses and attend college lacrosse games. Plus, with the Classic coinciding with spring break for many, it's an opportunity that teams simply couldn't pass up.

"It's such a good way for the kids to see Division I practices and games and what's needed to be able to play at that level," Highland Park head coach Derek Thomson said. "We have a younger group this year compared to previous teams, so we'll take them to a few Duke games and show them the college campuses. Plus, it gets the kids some exposure to schools outside of Texas and thinking about the whole college process."

Meanwhile, the Classic serves as an efficient way for top programs from different regions to face one another in-season. This also allows teams to get some vital experience early on. For Lee, the benefits of playing talented teams in the showcase will hopefully be influential towards his squad making a championship march in 2011.

"With four games in four days, it will be hard to keep fresh, but that's part of the fun of it," Lee said. "Playing with limited rest forces you to make adjustments in your style of play. It's good preparation for the late season grind of a playoff run."

Also, with a number of standout players participating in the showcase, it's an ideal way for lacrosse teams to get their best athletes noticed by colleges.

"We love to have the opportunity to travel and play top-level teams," McCallie head coach Troy Kemp said. "Not only does it help us from a coaching standpoint to prepare for the best, but our top kids will have a recruiting opportunity as well. If a kid plays well, someone will see him and say, ‘Hey, I can't miss this guy.'"

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