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In the next few weeks, lacrosse fans will watch as teams win playoff games and charge the field in excitement with the ultimate celebration awaiting the team in each division who will win the National Championship on Memorial Day. It is also the time of year when young men and women all over the country will have their college lacrosse careers come to a halt as they face the moment they have been dreading: the last game. 

Having their careers end in the regular season is difficult because there was hope for so much more success at the beginning of the year, but having it end in the playoffs hurts a little more with a National Championship only being a few wins or one win away.

The underclassmen on teams still have time and more games awaiting them, but they witness how emotional the seniors get when their careers end. As a freshman or sophomore you hug the teammates that taught you what it means to play for your school and treated you like family from the moment you stepped on campus. Watching these upperclassmen you have looked up to cry hurts to watch as their careers are cut short. You still have more time to play lacrosse, but you are out of time to play with them.

As a junior, you have spent three years with the seniors and they are like family after everything you have been through together. Watching them hang their heads and walk out of the locker room one last time means that it is your turn to lead. You tell yourself that you will do anything to end your career as a champion.

However, only a very small number of seniors get to experience that feeling because only one team can end the year as winners.

Every player remembers their last time walking off the field wearing their school’s jersey. Taking one last look at where things could have ended differently. Where you gave everything you had to try and win that game, but it was not enough. Not wanting to take the jersey off in the locker room because you know you will never be able to put it back on. Looking at the other seniors and the rest of the team realizing that you will never be together like this again. The teammates you have been through hell together with for 4 or in some cases 5 years during conditioning or hard practices, enjoyed weekends where you had nights you can never tell your parents about, and that have been there for you through all the challenges college throws at you. Realizing it is all over hits harder than any hit during a game ever could.

I know that is what it felt like for me when I walked off the field in my last college game in the NCAA Play-In game last season for Canisius. It is impossible to stop the tears after something you gave so much to for so many years just ends. So when you watch the college playoffs whether it is men’s or women’s of any level just know that on the other side of every celebration is a group of players feeling the pain of defeat.

Even the team that will go on to win the championship will have to face the sadness that comes with their careers ending. Even when you win you still have to say goodbye to your friends. Lacrosse and sports in general are so much more than winning and losing. The relationships made through sports are ones that are forged through the years of great times when you win and the struggles that ultimately come with losses. The time spent with teammates and coaches  especially in the short window of college athletics makes winning and extending your season so much more important because even a week longer together with your teammates, your best friends, is the greatest reward that comes with winning in the playoffs.

No matter what the results are for the rest of the playoffs, congratulations to all the seniors who have worked so hard to get to this point. These are the days you will cherish for the rest of your lives.

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