The N.C. High School Athletic Associations lacrosse conferences are looking more like the conferences in other sports: The NCHSAA released its first draft of this springs boys and girls conferences.
Because fewer than a fourth of NCHSAA schools have either program, new conferences are bringing together those that do. Finalized conferences will be released later.
Theres a new name for the league that houses the Southwest Wake Athletic 4A Conference schools what used to be called Conference 2 in boys lacrosse is now Conference 3.
Conference 3 will lose perennial state title contender Cardinal Gibbons but gains Southern Pines Pinecrest and SWAC school Fuquay-Varina both in their first seasons as a varsity sport. The nine-team league means that schools will get just one nonconference game to schedule, and it must be an endowment game.
That leaves a small window for Apex and Green Hope to still schedule longtime rival Cardinal Gibbons, and the same for new or rebuilding programs like Pinecrest, Fuquay-Varina and Cary to find a team of equal competition.
Losing Cardinal Gibbons shifts some of the power, which isnt a bad thing. In the past two seasons with Gibbons and Apex finishing in the top two Athens Drive, Holly Springs and Middle Creek have had to battle for just one automatic bid into the postseason.
Gibbons will play in Conference 6, which is essentially the Big Eight 3A Conference. Southern Durham is the only Big Eight member that doesnt play boys lacrosse, and they are replaced with Southern Vance the only a member of the Northern Carolina 2A Conference that does play.
Gibbons best competition in the conference will be Chapel Hill, as it is with most sports. None of other Big Eight teams finished better than .500 last year, although Cedar Ridge and J.F. Webb were both 8-8.
With six boys lacrosse programs in the East, it appears there will only be one wild-card bid. Sixteen eastern teams make the postseason, filling out a 32-team bracket.
Statewide, 12 schools have added boys lacrosse since last year. The new conferences that look like schools natural conferences points to a time in the near future when there may be more than one boys lacrosse championship.
In order to have a 4A and a 3A/2A/1A boys lacrosse championship, there must be about 50 members of each group. There are 58 4A schools who play boys lacrosse, but having only 35 schools from 3A, 2A and 1A combined means that both benchmarks have not been met.
There were not as many changes in the girls lacrosse conferences. Conference 2 stayed the same with the seven SWAC schools who play the sport.
Cardinal Gibbons is no longer in Conference 3 with the Cap-8 teams. Instead, the Crusaders girls are heading to Conference 4, where new programs at Jordan and Southern Vance also join the existing four teams: Riverside, Carrboro, Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill.
East Chapel Hill is the defending state champion.
There are now 62 girls lacrosse teams in the state. Five were added, but one folded.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps