Lady Rams lacrosse celebrate senior night without the game

A pioneer can be described as someone who has the courage to try something new and sets an example for others to follow. Friday afternoon, the Amsterdam girls lacrosse program celebrated the careers of nine members of its varsity team, and their team manager, all pioneers who have helped assure the program’s future. The Lady Rams were prepared to play the Schenectady Lady Patriots at Lynch Literacy Academy Field, but there was something missing: the referees. However, the lack of officials for the game didn’t stop the celebration, and the Lady Rams lacrosse program introduced its first varsity senior class with their families.

“All of my seniors are near and dear to my heart,” Amsterdam coach Jessica Byerwalters said. “They are a very dedicated, very committed, and very motivated group.”

Byerwalters has been a primary force in getting a girls lacrosse program started at Amsterdam High School and has been credited by members of the team for putting the program in place. Byerwalters started working from the ground up to build a team, and Amsterdam began play as a junior varsity team in 2015. Many of the girls who first took the field for AHS three years ago had played other high school sports including soccer, volleyball, basketball, and swimming. Lacrosse meant learning something new. Wins were few at first, but the team continued to work together and played in the fall league. The first victory came against a Foothills Council rival, the Lady Bulldogs of South Glens Falls, and one that stands out for senior captain Victoria Barone-Lopez.

“It was our first win,” Barone-Lopez said. “We were working so hard, from almost no experience. None of us had played lacrosse before except for Hope (Adair), so to beat a team that had been playing for years was a great feeling.”

By the end of the 2016 high school lacrosse season, the Lady Rams were capping off the first winning record for a girls lacrosse team in school history with a 17- 4 victory over the same South Glens Falls team on senior night at Lynch Field.

The 2017 seniors include Ashley Searles, Mya Searles, Britney Potter, Cinderae Chrzanowski, Gianna Petrone Perez, Paloma Malave, Hope Adair, Kateland Cooks, Victoria Brone-Lopez, and team manager Josh Smith, who also celebrated a birthday on Friday. Most of the seniors had only played for three seasons, except for one, team captain Hope Adair, who came to the team with a couple years of experience having already played for the AHS boys lacrosse program.

“The transition from boys to girls lacrosse,” said Adair when asked about a moment that will standout from her playing days at AHS. “The switch from boys to girls gave me a new perspective on the game.”

Another moment that is already written in the record books and one that Adair will remember is that she was the first player to score a goal for the Amsterdam girls varsity team. The Lady Rams opponent on that first week of April afternoon was perennial contender Scotia-Glenville.

“It was exciting,” Adair said after that game. “It made me happy because it showed we can play with the better teams and we can score against them.”

Adair and her senior teammates still have at least two more games to play as the contest with Schenectady has been rescheduled. Having another victory to celebrate would be a plus for Adair.

“The girls on this team are like a second family to me,” Adair said. “I’m going to miss them. It’s been fun, and it’s exciting to try something new.”

That something new could be playing lacrosse at the college level. Adair will be attending Springfield College in the the fall and having the benefit of five years in a high school lacrosse program with experience in both the girls and boys games could work to her advantage.

“I plan on playing,” Adair said. I’ve already talked with the coach and I’ll try out as a walk on. I’m excited to see where that goes.”

When Adair sets foot on a college field she won’t be alone. Fellow senior Britney Potter recently signed her letter of intent to play lacrosse at Southern Vermont College. Barone-Lopez, who also played varsity soccer at AHS could join them.

“It’s not a definite yet,” Barone- Lopez said. “I’m deciding between lacrosse and soccer.”

Coach Byerwalters had words of encouragement for the players who will take the next step in their lacrosse careers.

“Keep pushing forward,” Byerwalters said. “College is a new experience. Keep striving to be better every day.”

Byerwalters, who also coaches the Amsterdam girls varsity soccer team, has been instrumental in creating another sport for the girls to enjoy. A modified team is in place to give the girls more exposure to the sport before the high school level, and there has been consideration given to forming a junior varsity team as well.

“We’ve talked about it,” Byerwalters said. “We’ll decide in the next month. I’m looking forward to bringing some of the modified kids up and getting some new girls interested in the sport. We will see what new capabilities we will have.”

Byerwalters has had an impact on the sports scene at Amsterdam High School having coached soccer, lacrosse, and the Unified basketball team, leading the hoops squad to a sectional final appearance and runner up finish in 2016.

“She came here and decided to start a lacrosse program,” Barone- Lopez said of Byerwalters. “She helped me find another sport that I love to play.”

The seniors of the Amsterdam girls varsity lacrosse team will always be pioneers and left behind a strong, positive example to follow, and some encouraging words as well.

“No matter what the score just go out and play the game, and always try your hardest,” Barone-Lopez said.

“Love the sport,” Adair said. “Don’t think about anything else when you’re on the field. Practice makes perfect. You’re not going to win every game, but when you do it’s the best feeling in the world.”

Adair’s younger sister, sophomore Lauren Adair is also part of the varsity team and will try to build on this years’ success. Freshman Kayli Hoefs, one of the leading scorers on this year’s club will also be part of the program building process. In addition to the seniors, the 2017 Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity lacrosse team includes juniors Paige Bertuch, Kelsey Bogdan, Olivia Brahler, Krystal Dicaprio, Davia Iorio, Alyssa Kuchis, Lucia Liverio, and Brianna Ziobro, freshman Emily Schaufelberg, and eighth grader Lydia Iorio. Sophomore Lily Orengo, who missed this year due to injury could join them next year.

The first Amsterdam girls varsity lacrosse team still has at least two games left on the 2017 schedule. Tuesday, the Lady Rams travel to Scotia-Glenville to face the Lady Tartans, and on Wedensday the Lady Rams will have officials for their final home game against Schenectady. Game time is scheduled for 4:15pm.

The 2017 Lady Rams lacrosse team has etched some memories on their journey to the varsity level. Moments they can look back on whenever they open their senior yearbooks. When asked about a moment that will standout, it was always about the team.

“I’ll always remember the relationships I’ve created with my teammates,” Britney Potter said. “That will last me a lifetime.”

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.