SCHENECTADY — The Niskayuna and Guilderland girls’ lacrosse teams were just 8:39 minutes into the new season Tuesday evening when they were forced to leave Schenectady’s Larry Mulvaney Field because of a lockout at the high school.
The teams were told to vacate the turf — parents to leave the stands — and take shelter in their cars until further notice. Both teams ended up being quickly allowed into the school through a nearby door in order to shelter in the locker rooms.
Within 20 minutes, the teams were back on the turf warming up to resume after Schenectady police took a man into custody nearby on the 1300 block of Nott Street, just across Grand Boulevard from the field. According to Schenectady police spokesman Sgt. Pat Irwin, police responded to a report of a man who was suicidal and potentially armed with a shotgun. The school was placed on lockout as a precaution.
Niskayuna ended up winning its season opener 10-7 over Guilderland.
Neither team had scored when they were forced to stop the game. Niskayuna Athletic Director Larry Gillooley had received notice from his contact at Schenectady High School that the school had initiated a lockout.
The game was taking place at Schenectady instead of Niskayuna as construction finishes on the Silver Warriors’ new turf field and track at their Balltown Road campus. Gillooley, attending the game as he does most Niskayuna home contests, commended Schenectady personnel for their support and direction as well as the preparedness of the student-athletes, despite unfamiliar surroundings.
“The second we hear that there’s a safety issue on the field, we all go straight into our game plan and what we’re going to do as a team for safety,” said Niskayuna senior midfielder Emily Bateman. “And then once we’re in the school, we’re kind of thinking how to stick together, and not getting that in the way of when we come back out on the field.”
Bateman and fellow senior midfielder Jackie Reffelt spoke to the work adults did to keep them focused.
“The adults did a really good job of giving us enough information to get us off the field but not get caught up in it,” said Reffelt.
The events unfolded just a day after a 28-year-old shooter killed three students and three adults at a Christian school in Nashville and, locally, Albany Medical Center entered a lockdown due to a visitor with a gun inside the hospital.
Reffelt shared her thoughts on the need for preparedness given the frequency of such situations.
“It’s a sad reality we live in, but it’s our reality,” she said. “We need to have [a plan] and I think that having it makes you feel more comfortable and safe in your environment.”
Schenectady police posted on Facebook later in the evening, after hearing about false reports of a situation at Ellis Hospital, to clarify what had actually occurred and report, “There is not, and never was, a public threat.”
“Given the current climate, we ask that people avoid speculation and spreading false reports that could create public disturbance and safety issues,” the post read.
Safety was the constant refrain of all involved. While Niskayuna head coach Alexis Licht, whose daughter Abigail is an eighth-grader on the team, wanted to keep her group focused on what they could control — the game in progress, she also talked about protecting the student-athletes regardless of whether the game continued or not.
Once the teams did eventually return to the field, the night was back to being about just the game. It wasn’t a completely fresh start, but it was literally 0-0 when play resumed.
The Lady Dutch ran out to an early lead and entered halftime up 5-3. However, Bateman and freshman Ava Roemer led a resurgent Niskayuna offense during the second 25-minute period. Bateman finished with two goals and two assists and Roemer and Abigail Licht had two goals and one assist each.
Elizabeth Schafer led Guilderland with four goals and an assist, and goalie Madyson Hamilton made eight saves for the Lady Dutch. Emma Batko made five saves for Niskayuna in the win.
“It feels really good,” Bateman said of opening the season with a win. “We have a really young team, so getting our first win, against Guilderland, under the lights on the turf is really nice.”
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