It was a journey they had to make. One last trip to their home field.
There was no game. No fans. Just the three senior members of the Greens Farms Academy boys lacrosse team, their families, and their coaches. That would be Senior Day for the three senior Dragons who had high hopes for the 2020 season.
Charlie Benson, Liam Murphy, and Ryan Pilkington arrived at GFA on Tuesday and — keeping social distancing in mind — had one last moment in the sun on the school’s turf field.
The trio might not have gotten any games this season, but they continued to provide leadership over the course of a lost spring that was expected to be key in the program’s growth.
“The 2020 season will go down as a difficult, unique, and memorable year,” second-year head coach John Mathews said. “With reality of the season in jeopardy sinking in, we came together as a team, but this time virtually.”
When the season was finally washed out, the Dragons had only one way to go.
“At the point of reality being no more practices or games, we could take one of two stances during these unprecedented and difficult times,” Mathews said. “We could continue to ask why, complain, shrug our shoulders, and wonder what could have been. Or we could all come together, get to know each other more, and stay positive to make the most of the season. We decided to take the latter.”
Mathews said his seniors and his team adopted a “palms-down” motto to the season. While it might seem like a reference to a virtual season spent on Zoom with fingers on the keyboard, it’s a saying that actually runs deeper.
“It’s more of a life reference,” Mathews said. “If you put your palms up, you’re complaining and looking for excuses. If you put your palms down, you’re keeping your head down and powering through.”
To do that, the team has focused on individual workouts that focused on getting better at fundamentals.
“Without helmets or gear, the GFA 2020 boys lax team was going to get better,” Mathews said. “Better at fundamentals, better at pushing themselves, better at communicating to one another and as a team, and better at making the most of these times.”
The seniors have been a key part of that approach and will be missed, according to their coach.
Mathews called Benson "simply one of the best players to come through the GFA program."
“He always makes the players around him better. I am extremely proud of his growth as a player and an individual through the two years that I have coached him. He will be missed but will be a great addition to whichever school he chooses," Matthews said.
Murphy was also poised to have a big year, according to his coach.
“Liam has been a big part of the success of the GFA program for years and will surely be missed,” Mathews said. “His speed and athleticism were a tough matchup for any defender, and we were looking forward to big things from him in 2020. Liam’s poise and calmness under pressure were contagious to his teammates.”
Pilkington’s career actually started in goal, but he found another home on the playing field as another key contributor.
“We were all expecting big things from Ryan this year and expected him to step up to complete a balanced offensive unit,” Mathews said. “Ryan has a knack for stepping up when needed and he will be missed in what could have been a great year for him and our team.”
It was a season nobody wanted, least of all the seniors, and that knowledge stings the GFA head coach even more.
“It is certainly a bittersweet time for us to say goodbye to our seniors,” he said. “Charlie, Liam, and Ryan were dedicated leaders. I am sorry they lost their season lax season, but proud of where they are headed in the coming years and we thank them for their commitment. They have set a high bar, and foundation for the future of this program and we were grateful to have them.”
In the meantime, the returning GFA players will stay “palms down” in order to be ready for the 2021 campaign next spring.
Here is the video created to honor this year's Senior Class.