I wish I could remember the first time I picked up a lacrosse stick. That way I could have one of those poignant first-time-last-time moments lodged in my brain to mark the end of something that has practically been tagged onto my name for 15 years.

The last season for all senior spring athletes at Colby abruptly came to an end amid the COVID-19 global pandemic. Something that seemed so far away had suddenly forced me to say goodbye to my best friends and peers, some of whom I knew I’d never see again, completely changed the trajectory of the next year of my life, and ended a part of me that I didn’t think I would lose so soon.

So no, I don’t remember the very beginning of my lacrosse career, but I do remember everything up until the end.
 

I remember finally giving up spring softball like my dad had been wishing for every time he blew out his birthday candles. I remember Saturday afternoons in my backyard throwing the ball with my dad, our hyperactive boxer dog, Willie, bouncing in between us. I remember Christmas mornings when Santa brought my sisters and I new sticks and nets instead of American Girl dolls and Barbies. And I remember the game I took a wrong step, a wrong turn, and ended up on an operating table with a new ACL a few hours later. I remember how hard it was to pick up a stick again after that, my junior year of high school, when all my teammates were getting recruited to D-I programs and I still couldn’t bend my left leg.

I played the next year and a half anyway, partially because I didn’t want my dad to think I was a quitter, and partially because he had spent so much time, money, and days off work to drive me to tournaments in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida, where he joined me at Harry Potter World on one of my off days without so much as a word of complaint.

“My experience as a Colby athlete involves much more than just this abbreviated season.” —Kristin Yorke ’20

And then my club lacrosse coach, Kim Williams, now head coach at Wesleyan University, told me I should look at Colby—the first time I actually thought I could do this whole college athlete thing. Williams was a former assistant at Colby and put in a good word for me. From there, my Colby career was launched—a history and global studies double major, and four years playing on Colby’s Bill Alfond Field. Well, three and a quarter.

My experience as a Colby athlete involves much more than just this abbreviated season. As a first-year Mule, I held an innocent bliss induced by actually making a team that was led by some of the best lacrosse players I had ever seen. I was just grateful for my specially carved-out spot on the sideline, losing my voice after games, and being showered in champagne after our 2017 NESCAC Championship win. Being on the sideline wasn’t nearly as much fun as a sophomore, but with that spot came inexplicable bonds with those around me. We called our sideline SOY (Sideline of the Year), and we took pride in having the best celebrations in the NESCAC. We weren’t on the field, but we brought the energy.

My junior year I finally landed a spot as a starter on defense, but that isn’t what I remember most about that year. I remember closing out dinner hours at Dana Dining Hall with my team and long bus rides with laughter that spread like wildfire. I remember the moments spent with my best friends, our seniors who were like our sisters, and making every second of every day with them last.

We were two conference games into the 2020 season when we found out Amherst College was transitioning to online learning for the rest of the spring semester. I remember walking into my apartment in Alfond Commons that night with two of my senior teammates and best friends, all of us in complete open-mouth shock. My first thought was that we wouldn’t be able to play one of our fiercest competitors. And then, two days later, it happened to the NESCAC. Conference play was completely canceled, as was the championship, already marked on my calendar.

We were lucky enough to be one of the only NESCAC teams to be given one last game, against Bowdoin, a notoriously tough game no matter the circumstances. In a matter of 24 hours, our underclassmen put together a senior day complete with all our regular traditions: decorating the locker room, spray painting the sidelines of the field. Despite the fact our eyes were swollen from crying so hard, and half the seniors were battling injuries, we played that one last time. And despite the official “no spectators” rule, we had a full set of bleachers. 

The Colby women’s lacrosse team before their final match against Bowdoin. (Photo by Calvin Wetmore Photography)

We lost that game, but I don’t think anyone—Polar Bear or Mule—can even remember the score. As we stepped off the field, the senior parents who lived close enough to come to campus at a moment’s notice greeted us with tears. The families I had grown so close to over the past three years were there waiting to give me the embrace my New Jersey parents couldn’t be there to give. Back in the locker room, a bottle of champagne was waiting for each senior to celebrate our last game as Colby women’s lacrosse players.

As the semester continues—papers, projects, senior seminars conducted on Zoom—I’ve realized that there’s so much more to being a member of Colby women’s lacrosse than just one season.

It has taught me the value of other people’s opinions, and not just my own. It has shown me what a leader, a teammate, and best friend look like, and that yes, you can be all three. It has taught me that even on the worst days, when all you want to do is cry or quit, there is always going to be someone who believes in you. And most importantly, it has taught me that it’s not how many minutes you spend on the field or on the sideline, but it’s who you spend those minutes with that truly makes all the difference.