Murfreesboro's Popovich taking lacrosse talents to next level

Stephen Popovich of the Murfreesboro Mayhem was named the Tennessee Co-Offensive Player of the Year this season. PHOTOS COURTESY DAWN LaFORTE

Lacrosse won't become an official TSSAA sports state wide until the 2021-22 school year.

However, that doesn't mean it has deterred lacrosse enthusiasts to participate in the sport at the high school level.

In fact, Murfreesboro resident and former Oakland student Stephen Popovich has not only played since he was 11, but he was named the Division II Tennessee high school co-offensive Player of the Year this season while playing for the Murfreesboro Mayhem.

The Mayhem were a co-op team comprised of players from Oakland, Riverdale, Blackman and Siegel that played other high school opponents across the state.

"It was definitely a humbling honor," Popovich said of being named Co-Offensive Player of the Year. "We played against a lot of good teams like Clarksville, Cookeville and Soddy Daisy. There are a lot of programs even though it's not a TSSAA sport year."

As it turns out, lacrosse is somewhat of a family affair.

"I first got introduced to it when I was about 11 by my uncle," Popovich said. "Me and brother (Tanner) got out of baseball and switched to it."(My uncle) is a high school coach in Cleveland, Ohio."

He will be attending Lincoln Memorial University in the fall to further his education as well as playing lacrosse with his older brother, who will be a sophomore.  

"I’m very much looking forward to that and playing with my brother," Popovich said. "It was a hard decision where to go to college. It was either Lincoln Memorial or Alabama-Huntsville, but I couldn't think of a better place to play than with my brother."

Although Popovich won't play lacrosse at the TSSAA level, he's excited about the sport’s future.

"I'm definitely excited to see how it's grown," he said, referring to lacrosse being the fastest growing high school sport in the country. "I think it's going to keep growing a lot.

"I think most high schools will have it. Just talking to friends about it, I think it's going to happen. It's not that schools won't have enough players. It's really been growing, and I like what I'm seeing."

Popovich will continue to play and train this summer and will begin his college season next spring.

"The summer team I play for, we come out and scrimmage with coaches and former players," he said. "I'll be practicing with my brother in the yard and trying to get better this summer.

"It's a spring sport, but you start conditioning and weight lifting in the fall Monday through Friday. I'm excited about it."

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