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Upstate Lacrosse has been in existence for a quarter of a century, and for the third straight year the organization has held its opening weekend in Auburn.

Dozens of boys and girls lacrosse teams and thousands of spectators are gathering this weekend in Auburn to kick off Upstate Lacrosse season, with teams spanning from all over central New York, including Cayuga County-area teams such as Auburn, Jordan-Elbridge and Skaneateles.

Games were played Friday evening and will continue Saturday morning and afternoon. Some are being played at Holland Stadium and the accompanying fields behind Auburn Middle School, while others are being held at Everest Park in Owasco.

Organizing the event is almost a year-long process that begins in the fall.

"There is an extraordinary amount of work," said Auburn varsity boys lacrosse coach Matt Smith, who is one of the organizers of the event. "Coach (Steve) Crosby is the one that gets all the planning and all the logistical work put together, and he does this 10 months out of the year. We have over 100 volunteers between the stadium and Everest Park.

"This is really a community event."

Smith is also proud that Auburn has been the home for the games for the last three seasons. The first year games were played on the fields behind Auburn High School, while the past two years Holland Stadium has been a main site.

Having Upstate Lacrosse bring its opening weekend to Auburn, after years in Cortland, is a sign that Cayuga County is becoming a hub for lacrosse players of all ages.

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"With the beautiful stadium we have — in my opinion its the best sports facility in the state of New York — it just made sense," Smith said. "We have the fields, we have very skiled groundskeepers, and most importantly it fits Auburn's DNA. Auburn is a sports community. Auburn loves its sports and parents love watching their kids play in this community."

According to its website, Upstate Lacrosse's goal is to focus on the instructional and developmental aspects of lacrosse, and players range from third grade to 11th grade.

Nearly 150 games will be played during opening weekend in Auburn, with each team having the opportunity to play four games.

The rosters at the older age levels are made up of many modified-level players from their respective schools, though other players not necessarily involved with their school programs are also invited to sign up and play.

"We have a sign up and kids that played modified with us in the spring usually come play with us, but we open it to everybody," Smith said. "We have our third- and fourth-grade boys and girls teams playing, my fifth- and sixth-grade kids will be playing. For Auburn kids that want to come play this game, we encourage anyone if they want to try this great sport."

Smith joked he may even do some scouting for future varsity players.

"Oh yeah," he said. "I know most of our kindergartners, first-graders and second-graders."

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Sports writer Justin Ritzel can be reached at 282-2257 or at justin.ritzel@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenRitz.

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