Your opportunity will come.
For three years I heard that from my teammates, just waiting for the chance to show that I’ve been learning every day, making the most of my limited reps, and turning extra work sessions into my own practices.
Every day I’d head down to Franklin Field, either getting out there early or coming back to the field after practice, sometimes with a non-teammate so none of my teammates would know how much time I put into the sport that didn’t provide any playing time in return. Your opportunity will come, said the upperclassmen, when I was a freshman, a sophomore, and a junior. An opportunity did come, to take on a role that I didn’t necessarily want, but embraced. The non-starters, the scout team, the bench. They were mine, and I loved that role. Still, it was senior year and I was hopeful for the opportunity to get on the field. My class was eager for the opportunity to lead the team to a historic season. Our team was ready for the opportunity to reclaim the Ivy League title and head deep into the NCAA Tournament.
All year long, professors, friends, and family asked me how the team looked this year. Beaming, I told them that this was the best team we’ve ever had and how I genuinely knew that there was something special about this group. I glowed about the freshmen and how they brought unrivaled energy and passion to the game. Then, with a smile on my face, I would speak about my own class of seniors, each of whom I love like a sister. With pride, I explained how our three captains took it upon themselves to become the best leaders they could be, and I would full-heartedly share how impressed I was by their dedication, passion, and Philadelphia grit. This was our year.
Suddenly, there was no more year. Our opportunities were stripped. Gone. Senior Day, beating Princeton, the Ivy season and tournament, and NCAAs were erased with the words:
“The Ivy League has canceled all spring sports.”
We’ve all felt devastation, that feeling of your heart being ripped out of your chest. Imagine that, and then imagine watching your best friends also have their hearts shattered into pieces. After you had seen them push themselves to both the physical and emotional breaking points, time and time again, for this particular season? There weren’t words that could fix this. There was nothing that could fix this.
After we found out the news, we sat in the stands watching the men’s team play, in disbelief that no one had told them yet. Why would you end their practice though, if you could give your seniors another hour of blissfully playing the game that they’ve put their blood, sweat, and tears into for 14 years?
Lacrosse has given me the best moments of my life as well as the worst. The absolute joy I felt when I committed to Penn made that day one of the happiest of my life because I was gifted the ability to play high-level lacrosse for the next four years. The worst moments have always come from that opportunity to play lacrosse being taken. The day that I was told that I would never get onto the game-day field. The practices when I’d wait to be put into a drill, but practice would end and I hadn’t gotten to play with the team. So I’d hit the wall for hours until the skin on my hand blistered, hoping that the next day would be better.
I’m out of next days now.
On our last day, before we knew it was our last day, practice was dismissed and we were told we could go in and relax or shoot. My friend asked me if I wanted to go inside, and I asked her why would we go inside and do nothing when we could stay out and play lacrosse? I threw feeds to one of my freshmen, who has the next three years to bring more to this program.
Chelsea Kibler was poised to break the draw record. Erin Barry would have taken the goals record, and Gabby Rosenzweig was just shy of the assist record after already taking the points mark. Mikaila Cheeseman, recovering from an injury, soon would have been healthy enough to finally get to play in her senior year. Kaeleigh Morrill had persevered through injury after injury for years, worthwhile for the season we were about to have, and Morgan Winstead had spent weeks developing our off-the-field logistics for the payoff of on-the-field success
I’m a senior. I ride the bench like it’s my job. Why? I don’t get to play in games, but I do in practice. Those minutes playing the game I love, with the people I love, make it worth it. I spent years developing my role on the team and adding value in any way I could. Finally, I knew exactly what my job was and how I was going to contribute to our success this season.
I had planned to write this article at the end of May, both Ivy titles in hand. I already had paragraphs written out about my journey through the sport. It was going to be our year. We spent hours and hours over the fall discussing what it takes to win championships. How we would overcome adversity during the season. How special this year’s team was. We had time stolen from us, no doubt, but everything that Penn women’s lacrosse has given us infinitely overshadows what we lost. Every player who has gone through this program is part of my family, and that can’t be taken away.
If you had told me four years ago that I would never step on a game-day field at Penn, I would have turned my car around and driven up to Ithaca, N.Y. I wanted to go to a good school, but I wanted to go to a good school and play the sport I love. With almost four years under my belt, I would tell you that coming here was the best mistake I ever made.
I’m grateful for every moment that this program has given me. I’m grateful for the opportunity that my coaches gave me when they let me come to Penn and for everything that they’ve taught me here. Penn women’s lacrosse gave me my best friends, who are the most amazing, passionate, and ambitious people I’ve ever known. I’m so proud of everything we accomplished this year and over the past three and a half. We had time taken from us, but nothing can take away the memories we made together. Penn lacrosse is forever. ILPL.
TEIA ROSS is a College senior from Summit, N.J. and a Sports Reporter for the Daily Pennsylvanian. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.