An 18-member Cass Tech team has several distinctions. It's a first-season newcomer among Michigan's 92 high school women's lacrosse teams and the only one in Detroit.
It also has more Black players -- 14 -- than most others in the state, and perhaps than all of them.
"They do not look like the teams they play. Although lacrosse is a Native American game, its participants are primarily white," journalist Jeff Burtka writes Friday at The Guardian after following the team's pandemic-interrupted launch since last year.
Varsity tryouts were March 9, 2000. "The next day, Michigan confirmed its first two cases of Covid-19, and a week later, the state closed all schools," writes the West Bloomfield freelancer, who began reporting then. "I couldn't give up on their story, and it's an honor to finally share it," he tweets Friday.
More than a year later, Cass Tech students still have not returned to school. Until practice resumed this March, the girls on this year’s team had not seen most of their friends and teammates since the ... tryouts in 2020.
The first day of practice this year had a different feel. ... Without in-person classes, team members and coaches had a hard time recruiting freshmen to play. [Head coach Summer] Aldred said 21 more girls expressed interest but could not play because their parents were concerned about Covid-19.
Zahria Liggans, a senior who's team captain and its goalie, tells the reporter that lacrosse helped her regain balance.
She found that exercise helped her mental health, and the routine of practice brought back the control over her life she had lost. She said, "It has helped me find happiness in the now."
One appeal of the sport for Liggans is a chance to "open up a channel for somebody else, for people who look like you."
A teammate echoes that theme:
Alexia Carroll-Williams said she's aware that she stands out in lacrosse because she's African American and goes to a Detroit school. "I really hope that it grows so much that I see more Black people playing, Black girls especially," she said.
Lacrosse is the fourth spring sport for women at Cass, a magnet school with a reputation of excellence and many distinguished alumni. The new team is financed solely by donations, "including a $10,000 gift from an alumnus," according to The Guardian, a British newspaper with a U.S. website.
The season began April 5 at Lake Orion High in Oakland County and included matches aginst teams from Grosse Pointe, Bloomfield Township, Auburn Hills, Utica, Shelby Township, Clinton Township and a Dearborn parochial school. Cass plays Troy Athens next Thursdayt afternoon.
These eight photos are from the team's Instagram page: