Chicks With Sticks: How the Stuyvesant Huskies Persevered Through a Post-Pandemic Girls’

The Huskies, Stuyvesant’s girls’ lacrosse team, played hard through a uniquely difficult season.

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Entering the spring season, excitement was at an all-time high for the girls’ lacrosse team, the Stuyvesant Huskies, who were poised to spring back into action following a long stretch of inactivity during the pandemic. Due to the hiatus, however, the Huskies were faced with a uniquely unfortunate predicament with the state of their new team coming into the 2022 season.

It had been three years since the last girls’ lacrosse season took place, and many experienced upperclassmen had already graduated. Coming into the season, the team only had five returning players with lacrosse experience, some of whom had resorted to playing boys’ lacrosse during the 2020-2021 season, as they did not have enough players to run a separate girls’ team that year. Boys’ lacrosse has its own set of rules and regulations, the most notable difference being the high contact defense that prompts players to wear helmets and chest pads. Despite the adjustments they had to make, many of the girls who played on the boys’ team found the experience to be valuable. “Playing on the boys’ team last year was super fun. I definitely enjoyed the more physical aspect of the sport,” senior and co-captain Kiki Caso said. “Learning a whole set of rules for boys’ lacrosse was difficult, but it was super interesting to play, and I found it interesting how much brute force was emphasized and how little the stick finesse the girls had learned mattered. I think it will be interesting to see if, in coming years, the girls’ and boys’ teams can stay close.”

Prior to the commencement of the 2022 season, there was a strong possibility that the girls’ lacrosse program would not have the people nor the resources to get back on its feet. “To be totally honest, I thought that we would seriously have to consider not having a team at all this year,” Caso said. “I had to really hustle, and through what seemed like thousands of meetings with [athletic director Peter] Bologna and Coach, [...] I managed to scrape together all the new equipment for both the girls’ and guys’ teams.” She felt that this situation was one of the biggest challenges she faced, having to spend hours researching the new rules and regulations, as well as getting everything organized and ready to have a running program. The team also needed to recruit heavily in order to have enough players for an eligible roster, and with the coaching spot vacant, there was the search for a new coach as well. Fortunately, school social worker Arleen Novarese stepped up to become the official head coach of the girls’ lacrosse team. With everything now in order, the official season was finally underway.

It was difficult enough to assemble a functioning girls’ lacrosse team at all, but the season itself proved to have its own set of hurdles. “Our roster was really small, and we only ever had two or three subs a game. So if a player was unable to attend, then we would have to forfeit the game,” freshman Mira Nambiar said.

However, the Huskies weren’t alone, as many other teams in their league ended up forfeiting their games as well. “Sometimes, other teams forfeited, and sometimes, we forfeited. Some teams just weren’t active, didn’t have enough players, or their team got COVID-19,” junior Zifei Zhao said. With a managerial coach who didn’t have the experience to teach the skills associated with the sport, practices were mostly student-led. This responsibility was one of the primary challenges facing the captains, as they had to teach the basics of the game to many of the girls, who had not touched a lacrosse stick prior to joining the team. On top of this difficulty, practices were hard to come by. “Playing lacrosse in New York City is super hard, especially when you don’t have a field or enough resources,” Zhao said. Small, inexperienced, and under-resourced, the Huskies faced a long and difficult season.

The Huskies were able to persevere through this unique set of challenges. “The captains coached the new players and taught us how to play the game,” Nambiar said. “We made the best of our circumstances.”

The team established a working dynamic despite the situation. “I was just so appreciative to even have a coach this year, as [Novarese] was kind enough to get CPR-certified for us,” Caso said. With Novarese helping girls’ lacrosse stay afloat, Caso was content with taking on the role of managing the team as a co-captain while being a player herself. The other co-captains, seniors Angie Grzybowski and Cynthia Tan, along with several other experienced players, taught the first-years how to play the sport. “I think that the thing which helped to grow our roster was just having a welcoming practice environment. A lot of girls who joined our team this year were already friends, and so our team immediately became very close-knit,” Caso said.

Out of the three games that took place, the Huskies came away with one win and two losses. Stuyvesant won their season opener against Christopher Columbus, during which they endured the cold rain to win 11-2. Nambiar thought it was a fantastic start to the season. “It was pouring rain, and we had to go all the way to the Bronx to play them, but it was really enjoyable,” she said. The same cannot be said about the game against the Frederick Douglass Lady Lions, however, as the Huskies were overwhelmed defensively and lost the game 23-1.

The last game of the season against John Dewey also ended with a loss, but it was a highly contested game all throughout. Many of the girls felt that the match against Dewey was the game where the team truly came together. “All our team members got to play, and we all learned more about the game as a result,” Zhao said. “We definitely played more as a team, even though we lost.”

Though the season didn’t go exactly as planned, there were many takeaways from this year’s girls’ lacrosse season. For one, the roster of mostly first-year underclassmen stepped up to play when it mattered most, including the freshmen. “The freshmen have a surprising amount of dedication for the game. Everyday, they would show up to practice and be ready to train,” Caso said. “I’m super proud of them, not only for their dedication, but also because it really manifested in the form of stick skills and gameplay.” Many of the first-year players took the time to truly learn the game and foster their love for the sport.

Despite adversity, the Stuyvesant Huskies prevailed through the post-pandemic phase of girls’ lacrosse and fought for a chance to keep the program alive to play a sport they loved. With only three seniors graduating, the bulk of the roster is expected to return next season, this time with experience in lacrosse. Though there’s still a lot more to learn for the upcoming season, this season has done well in setting up for the future of the Huskies. What’s most important about this year is how it stands as a testament to the dedication of the girls who decided to pick up their sticks to persevere through a post-COVID world, leaving their marks in a unique era of Stuyvesant sports history.