The Pilgrim girl’s lacrosse team had a magical moment Tuesday night, a game-winning goal in sudden death triple overtime. It was the kind of moment everyone involved will remember for a long time.
The amazing thing is that it was also the kind of moment nobody could have imagined a few years ago.
Betsy Heidel, a junior, scored the game-winning goal. When she started high school and went out for the volleyball and basketball teams, she never would have pictured this.
She couldn’t have. Literally.
Until last year, Pilgrim didn’t have a lacrosse program. And unlike in some schools, where there’s a grass roots movement to start a team and a club program before varsity, this just popped out of the blue. There was interest, there was a spot in the league, and then there was a team.
As I watched the Pats on Tuesday night, I started thinking about their journey. And as I read this week’s edition of the college notes on page XX, featuring a former Vets lacrosse star who’s shining at the next level, I realized what the journey’s all about.
I had never seen a lacrosse game before I became a sportswriter. It was probably the only sport I hadn’t seen in person. Truth be told, it’s not my favorite. I’m more of a classic sports kind of guy. Give me baseball or football.
But I’ve come to appreciate lacrosse more and more, largely because of its popularity. In a city where high school sports roster sizes are dwindling across the board, lacrosse has been mostly immune. People love it.
Talking with Heidel and Pilgrim captain Ami Marks after Tuesday’s game, they both talked about that.
“We’re obsessed,” Marks said.
Once, they never imagined they’d play. Now, they have a hard time imagining not playing.
That’s the great thing about adding a program. For Pilgrim, the addition of lacrosse took some girls away from track and maybe softball, but as long as all the programs stay viable, then lacrosse’s emergence is nothing but a positive.
It’s about opportunity, the chance to play a sport that’s apparently really fun and the chance to be a part of something. It’s also about opening doors. If you read the college notes, you’ll see an item about Kim Courcy. She had never played lacrosse before she got to Vets, but she was a good athlete and she turned into a star. She now plays for a first-year program at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and she’s been the team’s best player.
Vets had the first girls’ lacrosse program in Warwick, and the path Courcy took is pretty common among former ’Canes. They were soccer players or field hockey players. Then they picked up a lacrosse stick and ended up playing in college.
That’s a great story, an opportunity seized.
That’s the bottom line for all high school sports, and it’s something nobody should forget, especially in tough economic times. Whether it’s lacrosse or swimming or tennis or baseball, sports really do make a difference.
And if you have a few magical moments along the way, all the better.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.