If Steve Sepeta had his way, lacrosse would be as popular in San Diego as it is on the east coast, where the sport is as common as soccer or basketball. The Massachusetts transplant is doing just about everything he can to make that a reality.
The boys lacrosse coach at The Bishop’s School, Sepeta eats, sleeps and breathes the sport. When he isn’t coaching the Knights, Sepeta spends most of his time managing a lacrosse equipment supply store he co-owns or running camps and leagues for youth players throughout San Diego County.
“It’s what I do all day basically,” Sepeta said, laughing. “It’s 24-7 lacrosse for me.”
Sepeta is a native of Duxbury, Mass., a small coastal town midway between Boston and Cape Cod that fits the image of an east coast lacrosse breeding ground to a T.
After a standout high school career, he played his college lacrosse at Notre Dame, where he was a four-year starter as a defenseman for the Fighting Irish. His teams went to three straight NCAA tournaments, and during his senior year, Notre Dame was ranked among the nation’s top 15 teams in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association polls.
Sepeta graduated from Notre Dame in 1999 with a marketing degree and later relocated to the west coast.
His company, South Swell Sports, has two San Diego locations - in Kearney Mesa and Solana Beach - and has a new location in Austin, Texas. The company’s Web site promises a new store coming soon in Orange County.
South Swell Sports is one of the largest distributors of lacrosse equipment on the west coast and the main outlet for most local lacrosse players to purchase sticks, helmets and pads, among other items vital to the game.
Sepeta and his business partner, former Notre Dame teammate and current Coronado High School boys Coach Alex Cade, have been running South Swell Sports for about four years. The camps and league they run take up the bulk of their time and effort.
“It started as a way for me to get involved in the community, and I sort of fell back on doing something I knew well. I was just doing it for fun. It’s great. It’s hard for me to believe that you can do something like this and that you can make it work.”
Sepeta has seen the sport he loves continue to grow during his time in San Diego. There are currently about 25 schools offering the sport for boys in the CIF-San Diego Section, and 20 schools offer the sport for girls.
Bishop’s and La Jolla High School each field both a boys and a girls team. As those teams have become more and more experienced, they have achieved greater and greater success, particularly in the postseason, in pre-season rankings posted on South Swell’s Web site, the Bishop’s boys were ninth in San Diego County.
“It’s growing really fast,” Sepeta said. “Lacrosse has a sort of mystique to it nationwide. There’s really a fraternity to it, and kids get hooked once they start playing.”
With Sepeta’s continued involvement, the game he loves could become as regular a part of the San Diego landscape as it is in his native state.