The Varsity Panthers of Bridge Lacrosse focused, worked, and prepared for an intense back and forth game against Parish at the district semi-finals on May 27th. In the regular season, the Panthers beat Parish twice. Once in a one-goal game, and another by five goals. Despite these wins, the panthers fought, both mentally and physically, for a trip to the D3 District Finals. Sitting at #2 and #3 respectively, Bridge and Parish fought a two-hour-long battle that ultimately drained both teams.
The game started off with Bridge possession and a quick goal off the draw by San Diego State commit Jamyria Woods. It took just the second draw for Woods' first assist to Daniela Quiroga who scored quickly. The Panthers were leading 2-0 in under five minutes. The energy from the crowd began to get more and more exciting, but Parish started fighting back. With two back-to-back free-position shots, Parish tied the game. Both teams furiously fought for ground balls, interceptions, free positions, and goals. Most importantly both teams were patient with their plays and passes.
As the first half wound down, Bridge was down 5-2 and had been scoreless for about 15 minutes, while Parish has scored three free-position shots in that time. Although Parish was on a roll, Kimaari Mondy of Bridge Lacrosse made an exceptional save and a perfect clear to Jamyria Woods. Woods sprinted down to pass the ball and accidentally put it in the back of the cage for the Panthers, making it a two-goal game. The fight followed through halftime with Bridge leading 7-5.
Coming into the second half, Bridge changed their energy, mindset, and determination. They started fighting as if their lives depended on it. With more grit and hustle Bridge started the second half on fire. Kimaari Mondy got her first save of the second half and scored a successful clear to Jamyria Woods. Woods sprinted it all the way down to the attack, passed to Daniela Quiroga, who finished with a roll-dodge goal, tying the game. The game was tied throughout the majority of the second half, beginning a back and forth journey for both teams. Trying to take the lead, the Panthers scored back-to-back goals making the score 11-9. Parish, though, begins to catch up, and makes it a one-goal game. However, with a response, Katie Pham-Hua of Bridge Lacrosse scores her second of the game giving Bridge the two-goal lead.
With eight seconds left in the second half, the game is tied at 14-14. One last draw is set up. It becomes a 50/50 ground ball but Jamyria Woods eventually picks it up and shoots a buzzer-beating goal earning Bridge a trip to the district finals for the first time in team history.
Often our teammates become like our second family. Sometimes we don't realize this until they're no longer in our lives. Hope Culberson is a junior at Irma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School and a member of Bridge Lacrosses' Varsity Panther team. I've interviewed her about her experience playing lacrosse after quitting for an entire season.
Culberson has changed her perspective on lacrosse over the years and has ultimately grown to love the sport, and the team she plays with. To her, everyone on her team is her family. Simply attending practice is the highlight of her day. She genuinely enjoys going to the field three times a week, but why did it take her this long to commit herself to the sport? When asked Culberson said:
"I came back mostly because I missed the people. There were a lot of people that I was close to that I didn't get to see anymore so it was pretty easy to convince me to come back. Also, I stopped playing because I couldn't find the time for it and I didn't have those obstacles this time around so it was perfect timing."
When asked about taking a season off and joining the team again she said, "Yes, I actually did quit after my first year because I was having trouble committing fully to it but in the end, I was convinced to come back by friends who also played for Bridge and Coach David. I joke that I'll quit again often but that's not going to happen because I secretly like it here. It's also not a place where you can just cut ties with the entire program. There are always going to be people calling and checking in on you even if you decide not to ever play lacrosse again. They care more about YOU than what you can do with a stick."
For Culberson, taking this time off was a huge lesson for her. She understands, now, that being part of her team is one of the best things in her life. She often regrets not having joined earlier, such as during middle school, and regrets leaving in the first place. The support system that Bridge provides her with, the friendships she's gained, and the mentors she's learned from have molded her into a strong young woman. Like she said, "Bridge has also made me more conscious of what comes after high school. Obviously, I won't be here forever but I am a lot closer to figuring out what I want out of college and how to get there." This team is the backbone of many student-athletes careers after high school and after lacrosse. Although Hope does not wish to play at the collegiate level, she's aware of the hurdles Coach David would go through just to find her a team if she did wish to play. She credits the opportunities Bridge has given her for making her conscious of not wanting to play a sport she would not be completely happy playing in college, and that's okay.
When she first joined Bridge Lacrosse, she was very convinced she would not be going back at all. Her very first time on the field she went home sore, in pain, and confused about how the game worked in the first place. Coincidentally, her first-day playing was the first day of fall conditioning so one could only imagine how she felt after. When asked why she decided to join anyway she said, "I obviously stuck with it in the end and it taught me that on the field and in life energy is contagious. Everyone feeds on each other and if we aren't bringing any excitement then it will show in the way we play. It isn't enough to go through the motions, your body AND mind have to be in the game. I really knew we were a family when our season was cut short but we still met through zoom calls to stay in touch. Then I really realized how much I love the people I am surrounded by because I missed them more than most of my classmates. That's also when I realized how much Bridge touched all of their lives because the thought of leaving brought many of them to tears."
As for after high school lacrosse, Culberson wishes to attend a four-year university with a good business program and moderate climate.
VYPE-U wishes her the best of luck on her journey to college and beyond.
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