BY LEXI LOBDELL ’20
Mount Holyoke Lacrosse celebrated their Senior Day by hosting Coast Guard Academy at their last home game of the year on Saturday, April 21. Though the Lyons suffered a 13-5 loss, the four seniors on the team, Leila Kouakou ’18, Kaitlin Braz ’18, Clarissa Leight ’18 and Julia Lankin ’18, were honored for their achievements. Kouakou reached 100 career points last week, only the 15th player in school history to do so, and Braz is currently ranked third in the conference for caused turnovers (35).
Head Coach Miriam Esber emphasized the leadership role that this senior class has fulfilled for the team. “They have all been team leaders for us, each in their own way,” she said.
“Leila is the strong and quiet type that gets the job done on the field,” Esber explained. “Julia is a wall on the defensive end and is our no-nonsense leader. Kaiti is an energizer bunny that just keeps going and brings everyone’s on-field energy up no matter how tired they are. And Clarissa is our loud, straight-to-the-point and sassy-to-the-end leader who is willing to do whatever the team needs, on or off the field.”
The seniors also explained how important being a part of the lacrosse team was for them; the four unanimously agreed that it was a defining part of their time at Mount Holyoke. “My experience as a varsity lacrosse player has shaped my Mount Holyoke career and will continue to shape my life after graduation,” said Lankin. “Being a college athlete is something special, rare and remarkable. As a varsity lacrosse player, I have learned to manage my time in order to be as successful as possible both on the field and in the classroom.”
Leight echoed her teammate’s sentiments. “This team has been such a positive force in my life and really balanced out my academics,” she said. “It’s pushed me to grow in ways I otherwise never would have; I’ve learned how to take pride in group achievements in a way I think only athletes can teach. Being a varsity athlete has given me friends and support I otherwise never would have had.”
The seniors also underscored the importance and honor of being a student athlete. “Student athletes are extraordinary people,” said Braz. “They understand that nothing will just come to them in life ... They also recognize that, as individuals, they sometimes have to make sacrifices in order to benefit the greater team. But in the end, [the] sacrifices and hard work are all worthwhile, because there is nothing more gratifying than serving something greater than yourself.”
“Being a student athlete at Mount Holyoke means we have to work hard all day, every day,” Kouakou added. “We pride ourselves in being accountable in the classroom and on the field.”
BY LEXI LOBDELL ’20
Though Esber will miss these four players, she looks forward to the future. “Our coaching staff have conversations all the time with players in all years about leadership development,” she said. “We always miss the seniors immensely as people and as players, but by next spring, the returners will be ready to fill their shoes.”
When asked for advice to give to their teammates, the seniors recommended taking opportunities to learn from peers, to work harder, visit officers and meet with coaches. “Be brave,” said Braz. “Mount Holyoke is place that will change your life forever as long as you’re brave enough to take the leap.”
Lankin agreed, adding, “Put yourself out there whenever possible by joining clubs, going to events, participating in Senior Symposium and enjoying nights out in Amherst or Northampton with your friends.
“The time passes quickly and while you should be concerned with succeeding academically, be sure to mix in a little bit of time to simply enjoy the environment around you and all the people who encompass this campus,” she said.
Though the team has played their last home game, their season is not over yet. Lacrosse will take on Smith on Wednesday, April 25 and Babson on Saturday, April 28 in back-to-back conference play.