Zach Defazio grew up in a family that played lacrosse so it’s understandable that he would take up the sport as a youth.
Even when Defazio’s family moved to the Lake Norman area from New York, he stuck with the game.
That’s allowed Defazio to develop into one of the area’s top scorers and become one of Lake Norman Charter’s key players.
“I feel like I’ve raised my game,” said Defazio, a junior attacker. “I’m not just a scorer anymore. I’ve become very good at giving up the ball as well.”
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Heading into the final week of the Knights’ regular season, Defazio led the team with 38 goals. That’s good for fifth among Mecklenburg County teams – many of whom have two or three times the number of students than Lake Norman Charter.
But Defazio is more than just a scorer this season, according to Knights coach Matt Wiehl.
“Zach’s been a really big asset for the team in a lot of ways,” Wiehl said. “Obviously, putting points on the board is where he makes his mark. But he’s also a leader on the field as far as getting guys moving.
“He communicates with myself and the other coaches about different ways to improve his game all the time. The other guys see that, and they want to emulate that because they want to be on the field more.
“He pays dividends not just in goals scored, but in just the attitude he carries into the game, his desire to be better and to play harder.”
A native of Rochester, N.Y., Defazio first picked up a lacrosse stick when he was 3 years old after watching his uncles play the game.
It wasn’t long before Defazio was attending area lacrosse camps, going up against much older players.
“Their high school coach had camps during the summer that he’d let me go to for free,” Defazio said.
However, when Defazio’s family moved to Huntersville in 2007, his lacrosse options became limited. While the state’s bigger private schools had fielded teams for years, it didn’t become a N.C. High School Athletic Association-recognized championship sport until 2010.
Furthermore, there was only one club-level program in the area – Team Carolina, founded in 2005, whom Defazio plays for on its Elite team.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be the end, because I love the game so much,” Defazio said. “I also knew that it wasn’t going to be nearly as big down here. But I came here at the right time.
“I got that rush that I didn’t get out of any other sport. I used to play football and basketball, but I quit those. Lacrosse is that one sport, no matter where I was, I always had a stick in my hand.”
Defazio’s high school career began at Hopewell, but he transferred to Lake Norman Charter as a sophomore, and his skills as a scorer emerged.
That season, behind a senior-laden team, Defazio scored a team-high 54 goals – good for seventh in the state and second in Mecklenburg County, according to national high school athletics website MaxPreps.com – as the Knights finished 14-2 after losing to eventual state 1A/2A/3A runner-up Marvin Ridge in the playoffs.
This season, Lake Norman Charter has played a much tougher schedule – No. 2 in the state among public school teams, according to computer rankings by LaxPower.com – and Defazio has taken on a different role for the Knights (8-5 through games of April 28).
“I like being able to control the ball, moving the ball around a lot more,” Defazio said. “I don’t mind doing that at all. Last year, I was more of a scorer; this year, I’ve been feeding the other guys a lot more. I love doing that, being able to help my other teammates score.
“We haven’t found our chemistry quite yet. We lost some big-time players (to graduation) and we’ve had some guys coming back from injuries. But it’s all starting to come along. Once we reach the postseason, we ought to get things fleshed together and be set for a nice, long run.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bill? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.