NISKYAUNA — Teamwork makes the dream work.
That’s a phrase signifying how people can accomplish more working together than alone — and it’s one Niskayuna girls’ lacrosse coaches Alexis Licht and Kelly Lephart know well. Both played on the original Niskayuna girls’ lacrosse team back in 1994, and are now coaching that team together.
“We said we’re not doing it without the other, there is no way,” Licht said. “This is absolutely a team effort.”
Licht is the head coach, and Lephart is the team’s assistant coach. They played on the inaugural team — then as Alexis Esposito and Kelly Klosterman — for then-head coach Nick Petraccione, who started the program.
“He literally had a book saying ‘OK, you stand here, someone needs to stand here,’” Licht said. “We lost a lot, but it was fun.”
There was a lot of freedom for the players that first year.
“He let us kind of do our thing,” Lephart said. “He was kind of like, ‘We’re in this together, we’re figuring this out together.’”
Lephart graduated in 1996, Licht in 1997 and both saw their lacrosse careers continue. Licht played at the University at Albany, and Lephart played at George Mason University. After college, both spent years away from Niskayuna before returning to their hometown. Licht spent time living in Hawaii and California — her husband Dave Licht was in the U.S. Navy — and coached at a San Diego high school. Lephart worked as an assistant coach at Colorado College, and also lived in Philadelphia and Finland before returning to Niskayuna with husband Mike Lephart, a Niskayuna native who won an NCAA hockey title with Boston College in 2001 at Times Union Center and later played professionally in the AHL and Europe.
Once back in Niskayuna, lacrosse remained a part of the childhood friends’ lives. Alexis Licht coached youth lacrosse and Kelly Lephart was involved with a travel lacrosse program.
“When we both moved back, we started hanging out,” Licht said. “It was like we didn’t miss a beat.”
The bond between the two was created through years of laughs, games and some tears, too. While in high school, Lephart’s brother, Eric Klosterman, died in April 1994. He was a senior on the Niskayuna boys’ lacrosse squad and wore No. 26, and his memory became one of inspiration for the program that head coach Mike Vorgang still leads, a program whose motto remains “26 Win” all these years later.
The memory of her brother helps guide Lephart as a coach.
“Eric was not a superstar; he wasn’t eat, drink, breathe lacrosse. There is just so much more to life, it’s fun, it’s awesome and it’s a privilege,” Lephart said. “Sometimes we get so suckered into this world and it overwhelms us, it eats us up. He was just a great example of playing, having fun and going with the flow.”
Licht operates the computer lab at Birchwood Elementary School in the Niskayuna Central School District and joined the girls’ varsity lacrosse program as its JV coach in 2015, and was the assistant to then-varsity coach Jason Bach for three years. Licht was approved as the varsity coach for the 2020 season that lasted for several days before it was canceled due to restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Lephart — who works as program director of Metro Girls’ Lacrosse, a travel organization — was a volunteer assistant with the girls’ lacrosse squad for Licht’s three years as an assistant.
“This is a community where people will come back,” Licht said. “We are so proud to be the originals and then to come back and to do this.”
Together the former teammates make a good coaching team.
“I thrive on the paperwork, the organization of it, making sure all the girls have all their stuff in together, screenings every day, all the equipment, the emailing, calling in the scores, it’s kind of my go-to.” Licht said. “Kelly is amazing about thinking about what we need and the best way to go about that as far as the girls. Super in-tune with the girls’ needs, especially emotionally, and how to help handle that.”
Lephart is at her best looking out onto the field.
“[Kelly] sees things about players before anyone else does,” Lephart said. “The ins and outs of everything that happened on the field, she has it figured out.”
Just like in 1994, this new group of coaches can make the dream work for the current generation of Silver Warriors.
“It’s just a really awesome balance,” Licht said. “There is a respect level in knowing that we couldn’t do it without one another and we need to do it together to make it work.”