Leading lady

Veron­ica Hires has been a trail­blazer for the Eagles’ lacrosse squad — help­ing it claim the Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship dur­ing the team’s in­aug­ur­al sea­son last year. Now she’s work­ing to­ward a re­peat.

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.sacidor@com­cast.net

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