Echoes of laughter could be heard throughout the front hallway of the Athletics and Events Center on Friday afternoon while the seven seniors of the women’s lacrosse team huddled around one of the small tables lining the windowed wall.
Sam Whitney had just shared a story of how two of her teammates — and housemates — pulled a prank on classmate Jess Worthman. The culprits had bought a few bags of balloons, put various items that belonged to Worthman into the balloons, blew them up and put them all over her room.
A scene similar to this occurs every night within a dinning room on Pleasant Street, but instead of glass window, photos of the seniors both on and off the field cover the white paint of their apartment wall.
The group of seven was brought together through their mutual passion for lacrosse, but their interactions off the field helped foster the love they have for each other.
In August 2010, it was a coincidence that six members on the women’s lacrosse team found themselves living on the third floor of Terrace 9. Sophomores at the time, the Class of 2013 wasn’t very close with one another, but that was about to change.
By September, a bond had formed between them that would only grow stronger throughout their time on South Hill. The six teammates decided to get a house together that fall, and they have lived there ever since.
The seventh senior, Kaitlyn Hoffay, didn’t play lacrosse as a freshman, but was a member of the women’s soccer team instead. She switched sports sophomore year, and her classmates welcomed her with open arms. Though Hoffay doesn’t live in the same house as the other six seniors, she lives just down the street.
“The fact that we do live together really helps on the field as well as off the field, just getting to know each other and building a strong bond, which obviously translates onto the field,” Michelle Avery said. “It wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t accidentally live on the same floor our sophomore year. It ended up working out really well, and now the six of us live together, and Hoffay is always there.”
Their chemistry on the field has been a huge advantage this season, with the Bombers currently undefeated in Empire 8 play. The South Hill squad also clinched the top seed in the conference tournament this past weekend after beating Alfred University 22-3.
“It’s knowing that they have my back off the field that makes me more confident on the field, because I know they’re going to have my back there too,” Kim Armbruster said.
The biggest ritual the senior house has revolves around food. Nikki Dahl said each housemate cooks dinner once a week, and on the seventh night, they’ll eat out. The seniors always make sure to have “family dinners” together, a tradition that Armbruster said has helped build their strong bonds.
“My family was big on having family dinners together and said, ‘A family that eats together, stays together,’ and I think that’s really run true with us,” Armbruster said. “Those family dinners where we can just have genuinely good conversations, all be together and spend that time together have been crucial to us understanding each other better.”
This rotation allows the housemates to change things up at mealtime – everything from fish tacos to pulled pork to homemade pizzas – as well as decreases stress, since each player only has to worry about cooking once a week. Worthman said Pinterest has been a valuable resource for recipes.
The players are willing to admit who the “top 3” and “bottom 3” chefs are and joke about each other’s cooking methods. Whitney said because they are so open with one another, they don’t have many conflicts.
“One thing that has been very unique about our group is that we’re all so different from one another, but we’re able to balance each other in a way where we can bring the most positive aspects of one another out,” Whitney said. “We always have so much fun together on and off the field and just enjoy being with one another. That’s been a really pivotal thing for us on the field.”
Despite their differences, Tracy Rivas said there are certain characteristics that they all share.
“What makes us the same is how strong our personalities are,” Rivas said. “All of us have our own strength, we’re all pretty assertive and what we have personality-wise is very prominent. What makes us so different is how we function. We understand each other, and we get how we are, and we know how to work around it. That’s one of the strongest aspects of our class.”
Their ability to adjust to one another’s different personalities is reflected in how the senior class leads the South Hill squad. Dahl said her classmates each have their own individual ways of helping out the younger players.
“Some of us are more leaders by example, some of us will lead by pulling a underclassman aside and working them through whatever they need help with and some of us will tell them right there on the spot as we’re going through the drill,” Dahl said. “It’s a nice balance that we have so many different types of leaders that if an underclassman needs one specific type of leader they definitely have that.”
For the last three seasons, the Blue and Gold have made it to the Empire 8 tournament final but were unable to win the championship. The seniors all believe that this will be the year the Bombers claim the tournament crown and the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
As these players near the end of their careers on South Hill, they hope that they will be able to leave a legacy that reflects not only their work ethic but also their strong relationship they have with one another.
“I hope that the people below us respect everything that we put into the team and they continue to grow and keep this program what it’s become,” Avery said.
The seven seniors may not have come together if it weren’t for athletics. However, lacrosse has shown this class that what matters most are the moments they share with one another.
“Lacrosse has really made us stronger, and it’s showed us that the care and the love we have for each other is unconditional, because it brings us back to something that we all love and have such a strong passion for,” Rivas said. “What our main goal is after every game and after every practice through every season is sharing these experiences that’s making us a stronger class.”