Various parent cheering sections littered the stands of West Springfield High School’s turf field on Monday as the school kicked off its annual spring break lacrosse tournament.
Fans supporting teams from Chantilly, Langley, South Lakes and West Springfield had marked their spots before the games began, Jimmy Borell had his own personal section.
The coach of Palos Verdes High School (Calif.), Borell is 2001 Lake Braddock graduate, and his friends from his playing days came out to check in on their old teammate.
“I haven’t been back here for a long time,” said Borell, whose school team is from a suburb south of Los Angeles. “So it was nice to see everyone again.”
Borell doesn’t remember the last time he stepped foot in Fairfax County. His lacrosse career has kept him far away from the place where he became one of the area’s top midfielders.
While at Lake Braddock, Borell was named first-team all-district, first-team all-region, and scored 31 goals in his senior season.
After a four-year career at Lake Braddock, he enjoyed a two-year stint at the U.S. Air Force Academy before transferring to the University of Maryland. After playing for the Terps, Borell was drafted by the Los Angeles Riptide of Major League Lacrosse.
“I saw it was a good excuse to move out there,” he said. “I figured pro lacrosse in Los Angeles … why not?”
About four years ago, he signed on as an assistant coach for a fast-growing lacrosse program at Palos Verdes.
Two years later, he inherited the coaching reins. Today, his team is one of the top squads in the state, and he’s a central figure in the growing lacrosse scene in Southern California.
“The thing I remember about leaving this area is how lacrosse was growing,” he said. “Lacrosse was exploding and it’s just like that in California now. We have pee wee programs and we’re developing the feeder programs. It’s just exploding.”
It all brings him back to where it began — Fairfax.
About two years ago, Borell brought the Sea Kings to a tournament in New Jersey where he caught up with former Lake Braddock assistant coach and current Westfield head coach Phil Polizotti.
Borell wanted to bring his team to his hometown to play against some of the Northern Region’s best, and Polizotti put him in touch with West Springfield coach Scott Settar.
“I hit up my old coach and asked him if there were any tournaments we could get into,” Borell said. “Polizotti told me about this one and I thought it was perfect. We could play the schools I used to play against.”
Now, two years later, the Sea Kings are in Northern Virginia as one of the guest teams invited to the spring lacrosse tournament — and they’re making a name for themselves.
In its first game against West Springfield, Palos Verdes took a 16-2 lead after the first quarter en route to a 20-6 victory.
“Teams underestimate us because we’re on the West Coast,” said Zack Fixen, a midfielder. “But there are a lot of good lacrosse players there and coach Borell has been really good for our team.”
But the California team’s domination didn’t last — the Sea Kings fell, 10-9, to Westfield on Tuesday afternoon.
While Borell is on the forefront of California’s lacrosse development, the tournament gives him a chance to see how the game is evolving in Virginia.
When Borell played at Lake Braddock, the sport was at the start of a boom. The only constant remaining from those days is that the team to beat from 2001 still is the team to beat in 2012.
“It’s funny because when I came back people told me that Langley is the team to beat, so it seems nothing’s really changed since I left,” he joked. “But it’s special to me to come back and see these teams again. The sport is so popular; I just expect it to keep on growing here.”