This February, my lacrosse team played Seton Hill University, a Division-II team from Pennsylvania, in a friendly scrimmage. Fortunately, we didn’t keep score. Our opponents outmatched us in skill, speed and hunger for the ball. Although we hated them on the field as they pushed us around, we battled to rise to their level and learn from them. In the practices following the scrimmage, my coach often yelled, “Seton Hill pace!” when we weren’t working hard enough to encourage us to play with the same intensity.
On March 16, a charter bus carrying the 23 players and coaches of Seton Hill’s women’s lacrosse team veered off the side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and crashed into a tree while they were on their way to a game against Millersville University. The 61-year-old bus driver died on impact and pregnant Head Coach Kristina Quigley was life-flighted from the scene of the accident where she and her unborn child of 6 months died a few hours later. Two other players were airlifted from the scene, and 19 others were transported to local hospitals for minor to severe injuries.
My first reaction was shock. How could that coach, whose hand I shook only a month before, no longer exist? How could that team, which played with such drive and intensity, have experienced such horror? Only a few hours before, my team had driven home from a game on that same highway, on the same type of bus. Why them and not us? The question hung in the air throughout practice, lifting and our team meetings that week.
My next reaction was awe. Within a few hours, the lacrosse community came together in a way I had never seen. First, hundreds of supportive Tweets and Facebook statuses let the team know that lacrosse players around the country were thinking of them. A Facebook group called “Play 4 Seton Hill” was created and currently has over 11,450 members, with hundreds of pictures of teams from New York to California to Texas showing support for Seton Hill with the colors of red and gold in their shoelaces. Another organization has been founded to help support Quigley’s young son, Gavin, through college.
Finally, this accident reminded me why I play.
Being on the lacrosse team can be frustrating. With 5:30 a.m. wake-ups for the early Williams Field House slot, grueling fitness tests, constant fundraising and freezing practices, there is a lot to complain about. We sometimes forget why we go through with it. Seton Hill reminded us. We play for each other, because we love the game and because this is an opportunity we will have only once in our lives. We become part of something bigger — a unit with a common goal — that leads to relationships unlike any other.
Despite losing their head coach and suffering serious injuries, the Seton Hill players are not giving up. After serious consideration, the team has decided to play out the rest of the season with the same drive, intensity and passion. This is a group of women who, no matter the odds, will fight to do what they love. Their next game is on April 10, and there is no doubt that they will play at Seton Hill pace.