By Alicia Dziak

Although the ground is still covered in snow, SGI spring sports are underway, with coaches making the best of the wintry conditions and using this opportunity to practice indoors. Athletes have a variety of sports to choose from this season. One of the sports that continues to grow in numbers and popularity is girls’ lacrosse, which currently only offers two levels—varsity and modified—with hopes of offering a JV level in the spring of 2019. (New this year, the modified team will include girls in grades 7-9. In the past, modified was only for 7th and 8th graders, and 9th graders moved up to varsity.)

Led this season by varsity coach Katie Zielen-Ersing, in her second year of coaching for SGI, and modified coach Jessica Wojtkowiak, in her first year of coaching, the coaching team happens to be former teammates, having played together on SGI’s team when they were in high school.

Zielen-Ersing graduated from SGI in 2013, played soccer and lacrosse at Erie Community College, where she captained both teams and received Best Female Athlete of the Year.

Wojtkowiak graduated from Springville in 2014 and was a part of the soccer team, as well as cross country, indoor track and dual sported outdoor track and lacrosse. “I was fortunate enough to reunite with Katie this summer, playing on a summer lacrosse league,” she said.

The varsity squad began practices last week, while the modified girls will start their practices next week.

“This season, as of right now, we have 19 girls on our roster,” explained Zielen-Ersing. “We essentially have the exact same team as least year without our seniors and with two new additions.” In addition, she plans to pull up 4-5 girls from the modified team, who currently has over 30 girls signed up to play.

“I am keeping all girls who sign up to play this year,” Wojtkowiak said. “We have a couple different reasons for that: I find it hard to cut someone if a majority of the girls don’t know the fundamental skills or how to play lacrosse. We are also keeping all individuals in hopes of eventually receiving a JV team next year!”

While the modified team has not officially started the season yet, Wojtkowiak said that, “From a coaching perspective, my goal is to really focus on the fundamentals and help the girls gain confidence throughout the season.”

Among the strengths of the mostly-veteran varsity team, Zielen-Ersing said, “We really rely on each other and are there for each other. The athletes are always giving 100 percent and never give up whether it be conditioning, stick skills, or game play.”

The team will face a variety of teams from many schools they don’t play in a lot of other sports, like non-league opponents Lewiston- Porter and Sweet Home. “I anticipate East Aurora and Eden being our toughest competition for the season,” Zielen-Ersing explained. “They’ve both had a solid program for years, but I think we’ve improved a lot these past couple of seasons and that they will be really good competition for us.”

As far as season goals go, she said, “This season we are really trying to focus on confidence. We tend to get down on ourselves but I’ve already seen a world of improvement just within our first week of practice! We’re also trying to perfect our defensive game and transition. I’m really excited to see what this season has to offer and I feel as if it’ll be our best one yet!”

The varsity lacrosse team plays their first home game on Friday, April 20 against Salamanca. The modified team plays their first home game on April 26 vs. Amherst. The fields are located behind the elementary and middle schools.