PCGLAX Grows Both On and Off the Field During 3-Day Trip to Orlando

The Pine Crest Girls' Lacrosse Team brings it in before a game against Jupiter High School. (via Tara Shecter, junior)

The Pine Crest Girls’ Varsity Lacrosse Team took a trip to Orlando over the long weekend and played two teams, Lassiter High School from Georgia and Hagerty High School from Orlando. The girls left school on Thursday, March 23 to play the Georgia state champion runner-ups at a public field in Tavares, Florida and lost 3-13. Taking advantage of the teacher workday on Friday, the team spent the day off at Universal and Islands of Adventure, bonding before their game the next day. Before heading back south, Pine Crest played Hagerty High School on Saturday, March 25 and came out with a ‘dub with a score of 16-2.

After a long bus ride from Fort Lauderdale, the girls played the Georgia team at 7 pm in windy conditions. Although the scoreboard was not in favor of the panthers, the athletes showed their same, strong determination and never got complacent.

“While we struggled in Thursday’s game, we persevered, made adjustments, and improved as the game went on. What I love about this team is that we never quit. We do not let the score of the game define how we play, whether we are winning or losing,” Coach Eileen Pliske said.

The players and coaches learned a lot from Thursday night and then applied what they wanted to improve upon two days later in the game against Hagerty High School. Going into Saturday’s game, the girls were preparing for another strong team, one that beat Saint Andrew’s earlier their season 12-11 (Pine Crest beat the Scots 16-11). The Panthers brought their A-game that Saturday morning and honed in on fast ball movement, better communication on defense, and an overall focus to play with confidence and heart. Pine Crest’s win not only showed great improvement over the weekend, but also major growth from the beginning of the season.

“In Saturday’s game, we established control early on but we never became complacent. This team is made up of hard working female athletes. I am always so proud of the effort,” Coach Pliske said.

The team poses after their 16-2 win against Hagerty High School on March 25. (via Terri Docal)

Starting back in December with preseason conditioning, the girls put in hours after school and during free periods in the weight room, on the track, and as a group getting into shape. The season started mid-January with preseason games and officially began February 20 after Ski Break. Coach Pliske, head of the PCGLAX program, assistant head of the Pine Crest Upper School Athletic Department, and head of the Middle School Athletic Department, has been coaching at Pine Crest for over a decade. This year, she scheduled a more difficult season of games than past years.

“We can easily schedule lower level teams and not be challenged, but then we wouldn’t grow. I think we have the talent and depth to benefit from a schedule like this,” Coach Pliske said.

This more rigorous schedule that she’s referring to has included games against American Heritage Delray, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Vero Beach, and many other schools from all over Florida.

As of this weekend’s trip, the team has a record of 8-7, but the overall essence of the program does not focus on the season’s record or statistics. Coach Pliske explains that she does not worry about the record, rather she focuses on what the players need to do in order to go far when the games matter the most during post season.

“It’s a journey and I don’t judge the season game-by-game. I judge it long term. We are trying to stay together as long as possible because we have such a great time together,” Coach Pliske said.

Junior Stefy Grau took a selfie with the team in front of the Universal sign on March 24. (via Stefy Grau, junior)

Every year is marked by an overall theme, and there is a word that symbolizes the season ahead; 2017’s theme is Experience. The team’s wardrobe features the same garb as any other Pine Crest sport, but each article of clothing is labeled with the season’s theme. Captain and senior Evin Rothschild, who will attend Cornell University, shares her experience in the program over the last four years.

“One of my favorite parts of the program is that they’re a second family to me. When I was a freshman, I looked up to the seniors, and now I’m the senior and I know because of the people before me how to set a good example and get along with everyone,” Evin said.

Evin is one of four captains this season, leading the team with Dani Swords, Amanda Anderson, and Sofia Caro. All four of them have been involved in the PCGLAX program since their freshman year, as well as the other three seniors, Ivanna Sheinberg, Chase Shea, and Samantha Meade. Having also been a captain of the Girls’ Junior Varsity Soccer team, Dani shares her thoughts on being captain of the lacrosse team.

“I think out of all the teams to be a captain of, this is probably the best team. Everyone is so great at working together, and we all have the same goal, so we all motivate and support each other, on and off the field,” Dani said.

Many girls on the team also play outside of school on club teams and hope to play in college. Currently, Amanda Anderson is signed to play lacrosse at Bowdoin next year, junior Tara Shecter is committed to play at Princeton University, and goalie, junior Kennady Smith, is committed to play at Boston University. Amanda shared that she implemented a lot of lessons she’s learned from her club team’s bonding into PCGLAX in order to instill the same passion and cohesive playing.

Players have improved both individually and as a team over this season by spending this time outside of practice, whether it is on another team or during a free period. Tara explains both self-improvement and team improvement made throughout the season so far.

“As a team, our stick skills and our lacrosse IQ have definitely met improvement. We switched our defense plan from man to zone, and that’s been good. I’ve been working on improving the draw because that has been a point of difficulty during the season,” Tara said.

Not only do the upperclassmen carry a lot of weight on the team, but so does the freshmen-heavy portion of the team too. Freshmen Lizzie Kaplan and Jordan Vital are vital (pun not intended) assets to the team’s success thus far. This past week, four more freshmen were brought up from JV as their season comes to an end. Lizzie started the season on attack and has recently been playing midfield in place of Anderson who has been out the last few games due to a knee injury.

“My confidence during crease rolls has majorly improved with the help of my coaches and teammates which has led to better shot placements and dodges,” Lizzie said.

The underclassmen’s confidence, like Lizzie’s, has been supported by the upperclassmen who both on and off the field. Sofia Caro, who will attend Yale University, focuses on promoting strong camaraderie as a helpful source to these younger players.

“I basically show them [underclassmen] that it’s okay that everyone starts at a different place and that the ultimate goal is for all as a team to get better and to keep us all going,” Sofia said.

Not only are the upperclassmen supportive but also the coaching staff. Led by Coach Pliske, the staff includes Coach Terri Docal, Coach Ivy Pisani, and alumnus Emily Becker. Emily graduated Pine Crest in 2012 and walked onto the lacrosse team at Bucknell University. She is currently working at Joe Dimaggio Children’s Hospital and subbing at Pine Crest for the year before heading to Columbia University for graduate school. Even though she is only back with PCGLAX for this year, she has been a great addition to the Experience season; she compares the current team to what it was like when she was on it.

“The biggest strength of the team is how resilient it is. The schedule is way tougher than when I was here. We are able to make it up with our heart and hustle and will to play for our teammates. Of course, they have great stick skills and they’re fast, but it is much more than that and they have what it takes,” Emily said.

Looking forward to the rest of the season, the team has only two more games until the beginning of the post season on April 6. Coach Pliske sums up what she is focusing on going into the later part of the season: “everything.” Overall, all the coaches are in agreement that the girls’ chemistry is what transfers into their performance on the field, which is why they scheduled bonding activities like their March Madness Fiddlesticks Tournament last week and the day at the amusement parks.

The PCGLAX Varsity team divided into teams Wednesday, March 22 to play their second annual March Madness Fiddlesticks Tournament. (via Coach Pliske)

“If they don’t know each other and their weakness off the field, then they can’t artificially get to know people on this team. You really have to know each other to play well together on the field,” Coach Terri said.

This past weekend was a very important moment in the season, especially as the team amps up their focus going into postseason in a week. Coach Pliske connects this weekend’s experience to the rest of the season to come.

“Travelling together for three days was a great experience and definitely helped us grow closer. I believe the bonds we develop off the field directly translate to the relationship we have on the field. Team chemistry is stronger. We trust each other, support each other, and play for each other. I can’t ask for anything more than that,” Coach Pliske said.

Make sure to head out to Best Field Wednesday night at 6 pm for Senior Night against Ransom Everglades. The Panthers also have a home game this Saturday, April 1, against Oak Hall School at 2 pm.