POWHATAN – Ashley Van Buskirk had previously heard a little bit about the Senior Classic. Friends and former Travel teammates, who had gotten to play in that prestigious U.S. Lacrosse Richmond Chapter game, had told her it was a really fun experience. So the Classic was somewhat on her radar.
But it wasn’t until AnnaGrace Causey, her best friend since kindergarten, texted her – asking her if she was going to play – that Van Buskirk learned she had the opportunity to take on one final high school lacrosse match.
There was only one issue that needed to be resolved: the game was taking place on the same night as the two Powhatan Girls Lacrosse standouts’ senior banquet. Both Causey and Van Buskirk had been nominated for scholarship awards and recognitions. But in the end, they chose to “double-dip,” Van Buskirk recalled with a chuckle, and attend the first hour of the banquet and see their friends before making the hike to Randolph-Macon, where Van Buskirk not only caught up with some of her travel team friends…
…but she also scored two goals in her Senior Classic team’s 19-4 victory.
Overall, she said, it was a really good night.
“That was one of the greatest lacrosse opportunities I’ll take away,” Van Buskirk said. “It was just a great time.”
While the teams were randomized, Van Buskirk ended up playing with five of her former teammates.
“It was amazing!” she said. “We got to catch up, see how everyone was doing with their college process, if they’re excited, nervous.”
And getting to play with Powhatan High School teammate and best friend AnnaGrace Causey one final time was, for Van Buskirk, “the biggest blessing.”
“It was just so cool to have that moment – that final moment together, kind of a sense of closure for us as teammates. To walk on the field together and then to walk off the field together one last time, that was really awesome,” Van Buskirk said. Causey, she added, has “been nothing but uplifting and empowering every year that I’ve done lacrosse. She’s got the best spirit.”
This year’s Senior Classic carried special meaning. Right before the game, two of the players on Van Buskirk’s team – Patrick Henry’s Ryann Peebles and Piper Mullins, both of whom Van Buskirk knew from travel – asked their teammates if they could tie the yellow ribbons that Peebles and Mullins provided around their cleats in memory of one of their best friends Henry Morin, who tragically lost his life in a drowning accident three weeks ago.
The girls played that Senior Classic game for him.
“It was very emotional and very strong,” Van Buskirk said.
Play on the field began, and the score was tight at first.
But Van Buskirk’s team – the White Team – eventually began to pull away from the opposing Blue Team. Players eventually got to sub into different positions that they normally wouldn’t get to try, with defenders playing on offense and vice versa.
Van Buskirk herself was a little bit anxious and a little bit nervous, noticing the good players around her. But for her, it was a matter of stepping back and realizing that there was a reason she was on that team, and that she deserved to be there just as much as everyone else.
So when the second half came around, she stepped up and told the coach, ‘Hey, I can claim midfield; put me on the circle.’ She then drew two fouls and scored off both of them.
Before the game, Powhatan head coach and Region 4A Coach of the Year Laura Camp – who had nominated both Causey and Van Buskirk for the Classic – wished both of her players luck.
“She’s the best,” Van Buskirk said of Camp. “She’s amazing – I can’t think of anyone else who deserved Coach of the Year more than her.”
Van Buskirk is continuing her lacrosse journey to the collegiate level, as she will play for the United States Merchant Marine Academy. Competing in the Senior Classic showed her the caliber of players she’ll be competing with over the next four years.
“We had never played together on a team before, but as we were leaving, Piper had said that it felt like we’ve been playing for years together,” Van Buskirk added. “And everyone walked away with a lot of confidence with that team, so it gives me a sense of assurance, knowing that, even though I won’t know any of the girls that I’m playing with come this Spring at Merchant Marine Academy – as long as we have the right energy, we’ll be able to mix well.”