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Girls’ lacrosse defeats Lamar, honors the Kensingers

The+team+prepares+to+play+Lamar+in+their+first+game+after+coach+Angie+Kensinger+and+her+husband+Stuart+passed+away.+
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Girls’ lacrosse defeats Lamar, honors the Kensingers

The team prepares to play Lamar in their first game after coach Angie Kensinger and her husband Stuart passed away.

The team prepares to play Lamar in their first game after coach Angie Kensinger and her husband Stuart passed away.

Grace Randall

The team prepares to play Lamar in their first game after coach Angie Kensinger and her husband Stuart passed away.

Grace Randall

Grace Randall

The team prepares to play Lamar in their first game after coach Angie Kensinger and her husband Stuart passed away.

By Grace Randall, St. John's School

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As the largest crowd ever seen on Caven Field gathered in support, the girls’ lacrosse team prepared for the most difficult game they would ever play.

The overflowing number of supporters came together not just to cheer for the Mavs against the Lamar Texans in the City Championship Semifinals, but also to show their respect for their beloved head coach Angie Kensinger and her husband Stuart (’81). The news of their death in a tragic plane crash outside Kerrville, Texas, on April 22 had sent a shockwave throughout the SJS community.

Known as Coach K and Mr. Coach K, the two had a powerful impact on the lacrosse community. Coach K began coaching girls’ lacrosse 22 years ago and has since then shaped the program with her dedication to each and every girl she coached. Under her lead, the team won 12 state championships and 11 SPC championships.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, coaches Amanda Bencosme, Clayton Crum Harkness (’08) and Nicole Morris had to decide if — and how — to continue the season. On Tuesday, April 23, the team voted to postpone the semifinals by a day to allow the team to grieve.

“I am truly proud of the courage for the girls to go out there and play because they had the option not to play the game,” Morris said. “The courage that it took to get back on the field, and the courage to play with grace and dignity and sportsmanship.”

How the team would perform under such emotional pressure was uncertain, especially for Pam Lewis, mother of senior captain Alexandra Lewis.

“We all tried to help our own daughter prepare to come out here because it’s really hard to walk into a situation where there’s been such a loss,” Mrs. Lewis said. “At our house, we talked about staying calm, breathing through it and making Coach K proud by competing and great sportsmanship, not necessarily winning.”

To honor the Kensingers, each player tied white ribbons with ladybugs in their hair, a symbol of the lacrosse program that originated from the Kensingers’ home on Ladybug Lane in Vero Beach, Florida. Over the years, the team has frequently traveled to south Florida for their Spring Break tournament.

Before the game, the Texan and Maverick players put down their sticks and stood arm-in-arm for a moment of silence.

“It was emotional seeing how compassionate and grief-stricken Lamar was, and [even how] the officials were affected,” Morris said. “It was a game for humanity instead of just a game to win.”

The School anticipated a large crowd at the game, and a shuttle service was available to transport fans from the Taub parking lot to Caven Field. With an abundance of red-and-black posters encouraging the team to #playforcoachK, around 300 fans, consisting of family friends of the Kensingers along with students, former players and lacrosse fans from across the city.

“It was not only the student section, but the amount of people that were there,” senior goalie Mary Leonard said. “Everyone knew it was going to be super packed, and that made people nervous, but also it helped knowing that all those people were there not to watch us win, but to be there for the team.”

In their pregame huddle, the Kensingers’ son, Philip (‘16), a junior at Washington and Lee University, talked to the team.

“Having Philip come over to talk to our girls before and after the game was a really cool surprise that we coaches, who tried to keep everything for the game as consistent as possible, didn’t even know was going to happen,” Harkness said. “Hearing Philip was really helpful for me and for the team.”

From the moment the game began, the Mavericks played with determination to honor their much loved coach and her family. The team came out strong and quickly took the lead with two goals by sophomore attacker Caroline Pressler.

“They were playing like we’ve never seen them play before,” Bencosme said. “They were actually playing from deep down inside their heart. They didn’t leave anything on the field. They gave it their all.”

After the Mavs completed a 12-8 victory to reach the City Championship Finals, Philip spoke to the team once more in their postgame huddle, and every member of the JV team handed a player two white roses, one to honor their coach and one to honor her husband. Students from all grade levels walked onto the field to comfort their classmates with hugs and tears.

“I thought we genuinely made Coach K proud,” Bencosme said. “We played and went out there and did what she would have wanted us to do. It was a really good feeling that for the first time, I was able to carry on and fulfill what she would have wanted us to do.”

This story was originally published on The Review on May 3, 2019.

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