It's not easy being a lacrosse player in Columbia County. Just ask Tom Mudrak.
"My dad's pushed me toward baseball my whole life," the Lakeside rising senior said. "They had no idea what lacrosse was. They thought it was like cricket."
As a hockey buff a few years ago, Mudrak first learned about the sport of lacrosse from a friend. He was a freshman at Greenbrier, but he said he transferred to Lakeside for his sophomore year after he learned the Panthers would field a boys lacrosse team.
He's been the cream of the Lakeside lacrosse crop ever since. After a junior year that saw the defenseman scoop up 92 ground balls and convert 70 takeaways, he became the only Augusta-area lacrosse player named to Team Georgia.
The elite-level team of top high school lacrosse talent in the state of Georgia came together last week for a summer training camp. Mudrak said it wasn't exactly a back-to-basics type experience.
"It was nine hours a day of lacrosse," he said. "We were setting up offenses and defenses and getting ready for the tournaments. Even in the warm-ups they were doing elite-level lacrosse stuff. There were no basics."
Mudrak, the lone Columbia County representative on the squad, will travel and play for Team Georgia in several upcoming summer tournaments including competitions in Delaware and Pennsylvania. The rising senior said after the Pennsylvania trip, the Team Georgia coaching staff will make another series of cuts before the team finishes out the season in the fall.
With Team Georgia facing some of the toughest high school competition during the summer tour, Mudrak said the team's goal isn't entirely centered around winning.
"The coach said it's recruiting first, winning second," he said. "There will be a lot of chances to get seen by college coaches."
That's where Mudrak hopes to go after he finishes his senior season next year. He received a few letters of interest from colleges during his junior season, but he expects the college recruiting process to pick up during his senior year.
It's that kind of talk that has brought his parents around. Mudrak said his father and mother, Brian and Margaret Mudrak, are slowly learning the sport. Mom is even one of the Lakeside team sponsors.
"They're learning," he said. "They still don't really understand, but that's OK."
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