Carolina Crush Lacrosse offers travel and learning opportunity

Matthews – Mint Hill Weekly

MINT HILL – Area girls will have an opportunity to hone their lacrosse skills this summer, as Carolina Crush Lacrosse gears up for two upcoming summer clinics.

Sandy Barnett, volunteer coordinator of Independence High School’s lacrosse program and Mint Hill Parks and Recreation council member, and Melissa LaDez, head varsity coach for Independence High’s lacrosse team, recently joined together to create Carolina Crush Lacrosse, a private lacrosse skills academy and travel team.

From left, Hannah Oliverius Pease, assistant coach; Natalie Barnett, assistant coach; and Melissa LaDez, head coach and co-founder. Photo courtesy of Sandy Barnett.

“We decided to start Carolina Crush to give girls an opportunity to get involved with such a great sport,” said LaDez. “There are other avenues they can take, but my goal was to create a local, cost-effective opportunity that is feasible for parents and players.”

LaDez has been involved with lacrosse for 24 years, as both a player and a coach. She ended her playing career with a silver medal for the U.S. Red Team at the Down Under Cup in Australia in 2008. She hopes to help foster a love of lacrosse by using her decades of experience with the sport.

“It is the fastest growing sport in the country, and I believe in the South, as well,” LaDez said. “At Independence alone, our roster grew from 18 to 25 players in one year due to growing interest and word of mouth.”

Barnett said her three children fell in love with the sport while participating in lacrosse at Queen’s Grant Community School.

“As a parent, there’s nothing better than giving your daughter an opportunity to be confident and strong,” she said. “Being an athlete is one way to do that.”

Barnett talked about how her daughter, Natalie, a senior at Independence, went from being shy to a leader, and then team captain, because of lacrosse. Natalie was named Independence High School’s Lacrosse MVP three times and will go on to play Division I lacrosse at Presbyterian College in the fall. She also will work as an assistant coach at Carolina Crush Lacrosse, working with elementary and middle school girls during summer clinics.

“(Lacrosse) has provided so many wonderful opportunities for my children,” Barnett said.

The summer clinics will run from June 16 to July 2 and July 14 to July 30 for girls in grades second through 12th grades living in Matthews, Mint Hill, Union County and south Charlotte. The clinics are for girls interested in improving their stick skills from a beginner to intermediate level.

“The problem in Mint Hill, Matthews and Union County is girls don’t start out playing when they’re young, so we are always behind in skill level,” said Barnett.

The travel team starts practice this week and will travel to High Point; Mooresville; and Gatlinburg and Chattanooga, Tennessee, during weekends starting June 13 and 14 and ending July 18 and 19.

The travel team gives high school students a chance to compete on a higher level and attract attention from college scouts, Barnett said. Currently, 15 girls are committed to playing on the travel team from Independence, Porter Ridge, South Mecklenburg and Butler high schools, but they are still recruiting more players.

“There are tons of opportunities to travel further, but we are trying to keep it affordable and realistic for the first time,” Barnett said. “Keep it at a level of investment parents can understand, but also provide good exposure to colleges.”

Hannah Oliverius Pease, a former goalie for Belmont Abbey College will be the assistant travel coach and college recruiting coordinator for the travel team. She will assist parents and players with the recruiting process to help the girls have the best exposure to college scouts, said Barnett.

Barnett and LaDez want to give girls an opportunity to build confidence, practice teamwork and have fun.

“While most lacrosse players won’t go on to play in college or professionally, it really will give them an outlet where they belong, which is vital at that age,” Barnett said.

“Engagement in lacrosse is so important because it is a healthy, positive outlet with a wonderful chance at networking,” LaDez said. “It is very important to me to find a positive, wholesome way to help the community and provide kids with a program to get involved with that can lead to many open doors.”

Summer academy clinics cost $225 to $250 per session depending on age. Players participating in both summer sessions will receive a $55 discount for the second session. The high school travel team costs $350, excluding travel expenses, with an additional $35 U.S. Lacrosse Association member fee.

Email Sandy Barnett at or visit for more information. They also will give away a Brine Dynasty Rise girls lacrosse stick; more information is available on the website.

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