Before this year, the local CHSAA had basically every sport available at every school for high school girls and boys.
But one sport that had been waiting patiently to take off was lacrosse.
On the boys’ side, a handful of teams have begun lacrosse programs. However, up until this spring, The Mary Louis Academy (TMLA), Jamaica Estates, was the only Catholic high school to field a girls’ varsity lacrosse team.
With the guidance of TMLA athletic director Joe Lewinger, a New York City girls’ Catholic lacrosse league opened play in March, featuring eight local varsity teams in two tiers: Kennedy Catholic H.S., Somers, N.Y.; St. John Villa Academy, Staten Island; St. Joseph by the Sea H.S., Staten Island; TMLA; St. Edmund Prep H.S., Sheepshead Bay; Bishop Kearney H.S., Bensonhurst; Cardinal Spellman H.S., the Bronx; and Cathedral H.S., Manhattan.
All of a sudden, the number of local diocesan girls’ lacrosse teams increased three-fold. So far, the new league has provided a learning experience for the TMLA, St. Edmund Prep and Bishop Kearney teams to understand a new sport.
“Lacrosse is a growing sport, especially on the women’s side, so it’s great that New York City in general is starting to adopt it, and it’s good to get that started in high school,” said Emily Buckley, the new coach at Bishop Kearney.
A graduate of the Bensonhurst school, Buckley played soccer in high school and went on to play at the University of New Haven, Conn. While there, she was asked by the lacrosse coach to join the team and wound up playing the sport for three years.
When an opening to coach at Bishop Kearney became available, Buckley was informed of the position by her cousin Ellen Lynch, who happens to be the second-year girls’ lacrosse coach at TMLA.
The transition to the new league for TMLA has been a smooth one, since the school had already had a team in previous seasons. For the past years, TMLA played in a league with Catholic schools out on Long Island.
“Long Island lacrosse is a big thing,” Lynch said. “They’ve all been playing since they were young kids. While at Mary Louis, a lot of them were just starting in high school, and it was something that was new to them.”
Rather than heading out to Long Island, these teams now have their very own local rivalries. All the other high school sports play local teams, so now girls’ lacrosse is on the same playing field.
“My girls were really excited when they were playing Kearney,” new St. Edmund’s coach Tabitha Rosario said. “They kept saying, ‘Coach this is our rival school!’”
Rosario, who has played lacrosse since seventh grade, said the sport is similar to basketball and soccer. Luckily at all three schools, girls involved with soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, track and cheerleading have now joined the lacrosse teams.
“The athleticism that you develop in lacrosse carries over to every other sport, so it will help them be more well-rounded when it comes to their other sports,” Buckley said.
Right now, all three coaches agree that learning the game and the various techniques are more important than wins, which will certainly come once the team feels comfortable with the new sport.
“I think this year will definitely push us to be greater next year,” Rosario said. “We know what we are going to have to work on with our strengths and our weaknesses. It’s going to bring out the best in us.”
“I think next year we’ll be a little more familiar with how the other teams play,” Lynch said. “We’re really excited to see where it goes, and hopefully more teams will want to join.”
With Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, set to welcome girls to the community this fall, another team is already on the radar.
And with this new league thriving, another local sport has been put on the map.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.