Finally, the Wallkill girls’ lacrosse team has become a varsity program.
What started as a club team in 2019 took to the field as a junior varsity program and lost nine straight to start the season. But after posting a 14-0 JV season last year, the decision was made to bring the Panthers up to the varsity, starting with the spring 2023 season.
“We’re obviously really excited,” senior Jazmin Medina said. “It’s taken a long time to build this problem. Everyone’s working really hard to come out strong and finish strong.”
Discussions about starting the program started in 2018, and the Panthers fielded a club team in 2019, which Wallkill coach Frank Croce said fared “pretty well,” and the plan was to take the Panthers to JV, starting in the 2020 season.
That season was canceled due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the Panthers’ JV debut to be delayed until scholastic sports returned in 2021. The JV Panthers didn’t fare very well, going 0-9.
“It was hard,” senior Madison McKenna said. “Tenth grade was our first season, ever. It was hard but we competed. We had to put in a lot of work. We didn’t win a lot of games. We won our first game – I think it was against Pine Bush – a team we were not supposed to beat. And ever since then, I think we’ve really just had the attitude that if we put in the work and we show up, we can make it happen.”
They made it happen last season, posting a 14-0 record. With a year under their belt, the Panthers’ lacrosse skills were sharper than they were the year before. Some had even gone on to play travel lacrosse during the previous off season.
“It’s one thing learning how to cradle and catch (the ball), but then there’s the dodging and running with it and making the cutbacks back and forth,” Croce said. “That only comes with experience. Experience and more reps is really what we needed to get to that point because we competed really well that first season.”
Croce is also the president of the Wallkill youth lacrosse program and there were no girls in the program in 2018, so there was some question of where to start. Interested Panthers were just learning the game, so starting at varsity made no sense.
Croce didn’t want to start at modified, so they picked JV.
“It took a couple of years to build and they’re there,” Croce said. “They’re hard-working girls and I know we’re a little bit behind experience-wise. Some of these schools like Kingston have been doing it 20 years.”
They may lack experience, but the knowledge that they would be joining the varsity ranks in 2023 put a little more excitement into the Panthers’ offseason program.
“It’s going to be a lot different than JV,” senior Claire Lischinsky said. “We’re going to be expecting a lot more tough competition. We’re going to have some familiar competition this year as some of the girls from JV have moved to varsity, but it’s definitely going to be harder and we’re going to have work twice as hard.”