Breanna Bly just can’t hide her frustration, sadness and anger.
The John Marshall/Lourdes girls lacrosse coach sees the writing on the wall but she can’t do anything about it. The Section 1 girls lacrosse tournament starts on Monday and so JM/Lourdes only has one guaranteed game left on its schedule. It has just one game left as a program.
Beginning next season, the co-op between John Marshall and Lourdes will be no more.
“It’s very sad,” Bly said. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s extremely frustrating and maddening that I can’t fix it. Because I'm a fixer.”
Bly’s squad is 2-8 this year due to a young roster and numerous injuries. The conclusion of the season has crept up on Bly and her team. They’ve rallied together. They’ve stayed strong.
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But inside, they’re struggling.
“I would say it’s bittersweet but it’s more bitter than sweet,” Bly said. "The sweet part has been the time with the girls. They have been terrific. But as you get closer and closer to the end of the season, you see these seniors just go, ‘I can’t believe this is over.’"
It’s been a long, hard-fought battle to keep the co-op alive, but despite public pleas to the school board, the decision was made and it's final.
Next year, if John Marshall has enough players, it will be a standalone team. There are no immediate plans for Lourdes to field a lacrosse team. There are 13 John Marshall players on the roster who are slated to return next season. Bly isn’t giving up on having a team. They’ll recruit hard throughout the offseason with the hopes of getting the numbers up.
“We’re not giving up,” Bly said. “We’ll probably have the youngest team in the state, but we’re going after middle schoolers to try to get them to come out. That’s our only chance to get the numbers up, if we open it up to seventh and eighth graders.”
Bly believes that the dissolution of the John Marshall/Lourdes co-op was an unnecessary step. She points to the fact that JM/Lourdes wasn’t combining to be a super team. The athletes just wanted to be able to play. She also points to how racially diverse the JM/Lourdes team is and the real-life conversations that one racial incident forced the entire team to have.
"You look at the demographics of John Marshall and, by and large, the student population isn’t the ones that go play lacrosse,” Bly said. "I’ve had more conversations with refs commenting about how our girls are one of the most racially diverse. Isn’t that important? Or are we going to just keep this a white-girl sport?
"Being on a team that’s so diverse is so amazing, your eyes are opened, it’s far more than playing lacrosse. it’s far more than trying to win the Big Nine. It’s far more than trying to beat Century or Mayo. It’s these life lessons and now it’s gone. That’s the injustice I see and the frustration I have.”
Parents of lacrosse players at Lourdes will face a tough choice next season. Either they can stay at Lourdes and the girls will not play lacrosse. Or they will have to go to a public school if they want that option to play.
“The Lourdes girls –– whose parents are still paying taxes by the way –– they come out of youth lacrosse and love it and they have to choose between playing the sport they love and going to a public high school or continuing with their religion and the religious aspect of their learning,” Bly said. “I don’t think that should be taken away. That should be important.”
If John Marshall isn’t able to get enough girls to field its own team, they’ll have the option to go play for Century next season.
Bly is trying to make the final days they spend together enjoyable. Practice on Thursday consisted of a water balloon fight. They’ll cherish the memories they made together and try to make one more run in the Section 1A tournament.
They just believe it didn't need to end this way.