First female player joins lacrosse squad

CHECK+THE+PATRIARCHY%3A+In+a+ball+control+drill%2C+Prentiss+Corbin+%E2%80%9922+trains+for+season+opener+versus+Brentwood+High+School+on+Feb.+22.

Justin Goldstein/Chronicle

CHECK THE PATRIARCHY: In a ball control drill, Prentiss Corbin ’22 trains for season opener versus Brentwood High School on Feb. 22.

By Charlie Seymour, Harvard-Westlake School

Rummaging through her backpack in search of her safety pads and helmet, Prentiss Corbin ’22 prepared to leave the empty girls’ locker room for her first practice with the boys lacrosse team. Corbin said she felt the pressure building in the Taper Athletic Pavilion hallway as she walked toward the field, equipped with a new stick and mouthguard. Corbin officially joined the program Dec. 17, 2021, becoming the first girl to play on the team in school history.

Corbin began playing lacrosse at 11 years old, when she started competing with a club team and continued through her first year of high school, playing for Palisades Charter High School’s girls lacrosse team. Upon transferring to the school as a sophomore, Corbin petitioned for the creation of a girls lacrosse team, as the school only offers a boys program. The athletic department denied her proposal. She continued to pursue the opportunity to play lacrosse for the school and eventually was granted a spot on the team for its 2022 season. Though she was initially turned away, Corbin said her continued passion for the sport motivated her to bring her case to the Athletic Department.

“Being on the lacrosse team [at Palisades Charter High School] was such a big part of my high school experience, and it brought me the most joy,” Corbin said. “[When I came to the school], I wanted to try [to play lacrosse] in any capacity that I could, and if that meant playing on the boys team, then so be it.”

Of the 565 schools in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section, only 87 offer girls lacrosse teams, according to MaxPreps. When she enrolled in the school, Corbin said she found the absence of a girls lacrosse team disappointing.

“Coming to [the school]and not being able to [play] the sport I love was a huge bummer,” Corbin said. “I just think it’s ridiculous that for so long, there hasn’t been a girls lacrosse team [here] .”

Despite playing the sport since childhood, Corbin said she is still adjusting to the major difference in physical playing style between mens and womens lacrosse. In girls lacrosse, any form of physical checking is penalized, whereas in boys lacrosse, players hitting one another with the stick is an integral part of defensive gameplay . Due to the more physical nature of mens lacrosse, chest and elbow pads, protective gloves and helmets are necessary in addition to the standard mouthguard.

“There are honestly so many differences [between boys and girls lacrosse],” Corbin said. “Adjusting to the new game and also just getting comfortable with it has been a huge challenge for me.”

In her sophomore year at the school, Corbin joined the school’s girl field hockey program while still practicing lacrosse outside of school. Having only played on girls’ sports teams, Corbin said she is still adapting to playing in an all-male environment .

“On a personal level, I think that joining a new team is always difficult,” Corbin said. “It’s like being a freshman on a team. Then joining a team where everyone is the opposite gender is an adjustment as well. I just haven’t gotten quite comfortable yet.”

Despite the challenges of entering a new social dynamic, Corbin said her teammates and coaches have helped her integrate into the team culture.

“It has been a pretty easy process just because the team is so great and the coaches are really nice,” Corbin said. “[The team has] been super supportive and I really am kind of blown away by how kind they’ve been.”

Boys Lacrosse Program Head Erik Krum said the team is doing its best to make Corbin feel included, regardless of gender differences.

“Honestly, there has not been a change in terms of the team’s focus or hard-working attitude [since Corbin joined],” Krum said. “The rest of the team just feels like we have gained another positive member to our program.”

Goalie Rohan Mehta ’23 said he feels Corbin integrated into the team seamlessly, despite the gender-based challenges she had to overcome in order to join the team.

“It’s definitely hard being new to a program as a senior, but I feel as though she has definitely found her spot on the team,” Mehta said. “Everyone has been really impressed with how fast she has [adjusted] to the differences between boys’ and girls’ lacrosse.”

Following her two years of petitioning, Corbin said she wants to inspire more girls to join the lacrosse team after finally being granted admission to the program.

“I hope I’ve opened the door for [girls interested in the sport] to hopefully join the team next year, maybe even this year,” Corbin said. “I also just hope that on a larger scale, maybe I’ve opened the door for people—for more girls— to try lacrosse out and have some impact on growing the lacrosse community at [the school].”

The boys lacrosse team finished last season with an overall 12-3 record and a 10-2 Mission League record, putting the team in second place for league. The team lost 11-4 to Tesoro High School in the second round of CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs May 28, 2021. It starts its season off with its first competitive match against Brentwood High School on Feb. 22.

This story was originally published on The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle on February 18, 2022.