Before they graduate, the three senior captains on the Staples High School girls lacrosse team — Kat Krieger, Lexa Koenig and Blair Barone — wanted to find a way to pay tribute to teammate Ella Hirten and honor the memory of Hirten's late brother, Preston.
The three collaborated on a speech they plan to read prior to the Wreckers' final regular-season game against St. Joseph on May 22. During that game, every member of the team will wear a white ribbon in their hair to symbolize spirit and life.
"I think it's extremely meaningful," said Staples girls lacrosse coach
Cathy Schager, whose team improved to 7-5 following Friday's 14-8 win over Ridgefield. "Preston was always an important part of this community and Ella's an important part of our team, and we wanted to do as much as we can to support the whole family."
The parents of the Staples players are hoping to get the game moved from the girls' lacrosse field to the football field. That way, the event would get the maximum exposure with Staples' radio and television stations being able to cover it.
"I think it's awesome," said long-time Staples soccer coach Dan Woog, who won't be able to attend due to a prior commitment. "It's so important to remember Preston in so many ways. We remember him as a soccer player. They're helping Ella remember him as a brother."
Krieger said the inspiration for the ribbons came from seeing college teams wearing patches on their jerseys to support the earthquake victims in Haiti.
"It's going to be a game for us," she said, "but it's just going to be so everyone knows that we're still thinking of him and honoring what he stood for."
On August 18 of last year, Preston Hirten, a 2007 graduate of Staples, collapsed and died during a practice with the Mary Washington University men's soccer team. He was 20 years old.
"We're all really close with Ella," Koenig said. "We're all a team, obviously. We want to support her as much as we can, not only honoring Preston's memory and everything he stood for, but also really supporting our teammate who we love."
A member of the Staples' 2006 team that reached the state finals, Preston Hirten's death affected many in the tight-knit, soccer-loving community. Ask anyone at Staples, and they'll tell you he was the type of kid who was impossible not to like.
"Preston was the heart and soul of his 2006 team who was passionate about playing soccer," Woog said. "He was a tough, hard-nosed kid who loved playing soccer. He loved playing it well, but he also loved playing it the right way."
The plan is for each of the captains to deliver a portion of the speech, and Krieger said she will try not to get too emotional.
"I think I'll try my best to stay strong for Ella and everyone," she said. "It's not supposed to be going backwards for a tragedy. It's just supposed to honor what he stood for, all the positive things, like how he was such a hard worker
and everything good he stood for on his soccer team and in the community."
The players' initiative has moved Coach Schager.
"I'm especially touched that these guys wanted to bring it back and show them that everyone is still thinking about them and caring about them and wanting to support them," she said.
For the players, the best memory they have is simply watching Preston Hirten play soccer.
"He was always smiling, always encouraging to his teammates," Krieger said. "It was a great thing to watch. You couldn't go to a game and not know who he was. He would do things that would make you want to talk about him after."
Added Koenig: "I'm a big soccer fan, and it was amazing to watch him on the field and everything that he was capable of."