The Jeff Latta Lacrosse Goalie of the Year Award has been awarded to outstanding New Hanover County Middle School lacrosse goalies since 2016. This award is presented in memory of Jeff Latta, who started lacrosse in the New Hanover County public middle schools.
Jeff first started lacrosse in Wilmington, coaching at Williston Middle School in 1991 (back row, 2nd from right in the Raiders team picture above.)
Jeff was a rock-wall goalie from Maryland’s Annapolis High School who worked at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. A sudden heart disorder at age 32, which resulted in a global brain injury, left him a quadriplegic for the last 16 years of his life. He left us in March of 2016 at the age of 48. The Latta Lacrosse Goalie of the Year Award was established in 2016.
30 years ago at Williston, lacrosse was introduced as a program of support for “latch-key” youth and was a club team – the “Raiders.”
The Williston program was modeled after Baltimore’s Harlem Park Middle School lacrosse team as described by Sports Illustrated in their June 1, 1987 article: “Lacrosse to LaRescue”.
Grants from the State of North Carolina and the Lacrosse Foundation, Inc. (now USA Lacrosse), made it possible to bring the sport to all middle schools in the NHCS. These 16 (8 boys and 8 girls) clubs were the “Lacrosse and Academics Teams,” providing life skills, academic enrichment and lacrosse. Unfortunately, D. C. Virgo MS ceased to offer lacrosse after the 2009-’10 school year.
Jeff had the help of Joe Byrd, Mike Jacobs (back row, third from right in the Raider’s team picture above), Ron Coley, Don Oesterbo, Emily Davis, Cedric Dickerson, Carl Newton, Sam Highsmith, John Beall, Ken Broomfield, Bob Shaw, Beau McCaffray (back row – blue shirt) and Dr. Steve Treman, to name a very few.
Fifteen years later, the New Hanover County Board of Education made lacrosse an official New Hanover County Schools middle school sport. Today, New Hanover County remains the only public school district in North Carolina to offer both boys and girls lacrosse in middle school.
The NHCS middle school lacrosse coaches vote to select the Latta Lacrosse Goalie of the Year awardees. Here are their choices, by year, for the Latta Lacrosse Goalie of the Year Award:
- 2016: Lauren Condon and Logan Trafton
- 2017: Rachel King and Daniel Ando
- 2018: Molly Maguire and Tommy Burgee
- 2019: Ava Kunzer and Tommy Burgee
- 2020: Lacrosse season and award cancelled due to Covid19.
- 2021: Rylan Harris and Taylor McGirt
Today, the Latta Lacrosse Goalie of the Year Award is sponsored by Jeff’s Parents as well as Coastal Rays Girls Lacrosse and Lacrosse Specialties.
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