Girls lax denied chance at program’s first win
The Northwestern Lehigh High School girls lacrosse program was looking to make history during the 2020 season, before the COVID-19 pandemic ended it before it started. Entering just the second year of the program’s existence, the Tigers were looking for their first win in program history after going without one in the first year in 2019.
Head coach Lissa Opolsky, who is also the school’s field hockey coach, was disappointed she did not get to work with her team this spring as she saw positive signs and potential for a breakout season.
“I looked forward to watching the girls progress in each practice and game,” said Opolsky. “We were gaining a lot of momentum and confidence heading into our first scrimmage. We knew there may be ups and downs, but we were hopeful that would lead to us getting better. Going without a win last season was very tough, so we were working towards being able to tally that first one in the history books this season.”
Lacrosse is a growing sport nationally and in the Lehigh Valley. While larger high schools have had varsity boys teams around for a little more than 10 years, most also have girls teams. Northwestern began both a its boys and girls programs last season. Opolsky feels that in the not-so-distant future the Tigers will be able to compete with some of the better programs in the area.
“There are a lot of great female athletes at Northwestern, so when they needed a coach for the opening season, it was a no-brainer,” she said. “The girls work hard, respect the opportunities that they have and are a pleasure to be around. We have a blank slate to work with so they, as well as I, are excited and humbled by that.”
From last season’s 0-12 record, Opolsky has seen great improvements in the talents and attitudes of her players. The team was ready to put its offseason training to use before the statewide shut down closed schools and ended sports seasons.
“The beginning of spring went very well,” said Opolsky. “Prior to the beginning of March, a lot of the girls were participating in a club or in a league, some were practicing indoors and doing strength and conditioning and once the weather was mild we tried to get out on the field. When the opening day [of practice] came, we just picked up where we left off.
“The underclassmen have had the opportunity to play in the NYAA program or through club sports, so they have a great foundation taught by their coaches there. A lot of our experience from this year was going to come from our close games last season and a lot of young talent. It was foreseeable that 4-5 freshmen would have started and been huge contributors for us this year.”
Northwestern had three seniors on this year’s team, Mackenzie Hess, Hallie Bleam and Hailey Waltman.
“Mac and Hallie played last year for the first time,” Opolsky said. “They were very open to learning and understanding the game. Each day was a new experience for them because they didn’t grow up playing the sport. They drew on experiences and things they knew from the other sports they played and applied it to lacrosse.
“We were looking forward to the three of them being great role models as students and people for the underclassmen. Unfortunately, they didn’t get to play a game, but hopefully they have some great memories from the first few weeks with the team.”