It was the beginning of a new era as the George Washington High School girls lacrosse squad hosted neighborhood rival Northeast High last week.
The historic afternoon marked the first-ever girls lacrosse game played at George Washington’s Mickey Young Memorial Stadium.
“Last year was the first year in Philadelphia that lacrosse was played in the Public League,” explained Washington head coach Bonnie Hughes. “All of our games were played at the Simon Gratz Super Site last season, so we never had a crowd come out and support us. Today is special.
“Taking them from not playing at all to developing basic skills in throwing and catching, to now running plays and seeing plays developing and just learning the game, that’s really been the big part of it,” she continued. “For them to love the sport and have passion and appreciate the game, that was my goal.”
Since the league’s inception, the Eagles have been led by senior captain Veronica Hires. A left defensive wing, Hires began playing lacrosse in eighth grade, bringing her experience and knowledge of the sport to the Eagles’ new program. She helped the freshly formed squad go undefeated last season en route to a Public League championship title.
“I was picked to be captain because I am able to help the newcomers that might not have played the game before,” explained Hires. “I know how to do the catching and the throwing, so I’m able to take my teammates to the side whenever they want and help them with it.”
Hires’ heroics aren’t limited to the lacrosse field. She also plays for the Eagles’ girls basketball and field hockey teams.
“I like playing three sports because it keeps me preoccupied and in shape for the next sport,” Hires said, laughing. “I manage that with my grades and make sure I do one-hundred percent with all of it.
“This year I worked out with the football team instead of playing basketball because I thought it would keep me in better shape,” she added. “We worked on our footwork, speed and consistency. We worked on a lot of footwork, which you need in both field hockey and lacrosse. This year I haven’t been tripping up, so it definitely helped me in my speed and endurance.”
Her hard work was evident last fall, when Hires guided the George Washington field hockey squad to a Public League championship title for the first time since 2004 — stealing the crown from Northeast, which had held it for five years.
“In the championship game, Veronica was a major player for us,” said Eagles’ field hockey coach Ann Tunney. “It was 0-0 the whole game, and most of it was played down at our goal. Veronica played such a big part in defending our goal, and in our eventually winning, 1-0.
“Veronica is very talented and puts in one-hundred percent,” Tunney continued. “She’s a hard worker, serious, and conscientious. As a senior captain, she had a lot of leadership because she would make sure the whole team was as serious about playing as her. Her personality would run off onto the team. She really is a great player, and a great leader.”
Hires was named this year’s field hockey Public League Most Valuable Player and will play for Alvernia University in the fall.
“It was amazing,” added Hires of the title win. “Since my freshman year, we’ve always been runner-up. Being my senior year, it made me really excited to win it, especially because I am going to college to play field hockey. It was a big accomplishment.”
Although her high-school hockey career has concluded, Hires has plenty of competition ahead. The Eagles’ lacrosse squad is in the process of defending its Public League title.
“We were undefeated champs last year,” said Washington assistant lacrosse coach Robin Yuspeh. “We had our first loss yesterday to Girls High. The girls are making huge strides and getting better each week. They work very hard, and hopefully will be able to pull out the rest of the season.”
On May 11, Washington downed longtime rival Northeast High School in a thrilling battle. Northeast’s Hong Tran scored a quick goal at the start of the game. Washington’s Diana Marcutenco answered right back, tying the score 1-1. Teammate Victoria Poberezhnyuk added two more for the Eagles.
Northeast tied it at three goals apiece, but the Eagles pulled away by halftime, 7-4.
Washington’s Katrine Metelkova opened the second half with a goal. On a breakaway, Hires would score her first goal of the day. The senior captain then assisted teammate Poberezhnyuk for another point as Washington poured it on, 10-4. Marcutenco added one more for the Eagles before Northeast’s Tammy Sloan contributed two for the Vikings.
But Hires would have the last say of the day, scoring the final goal of the game. The Eagles won 12-6.
“I’m hoping we will win the lacrosse championship this year,” said a gleeful Hires after the win. “We have a really good team this year, and we lost to Girls High by only two points. We just have to work on more consistency like we did today. I think we can win it.” ••
Reporter Gabriella Sacidor can be reached at Gabriella.firstname.lastname@example.org