Just a few months ago, the David A. Stein Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy (M.S./H.S. 141, RKA) lacrosse program didn’t even exist. And when Mike Hirsh, its coach and founder, finally assembled his squad, it consisted of 23 players who had never even held a lacrosse stick, let alone played an actual game.
But the Tigers’ inaugural voyage through the PSAL lacrosse season surpassed even the most optimistic projections. They finished the regular season with a surprising 8-8 record, including three straight victories in the final week. It was that winning spurt that helped clinch a playoff spot for the first-year program and a date with PSAL lacrosse heavyweight Brooklyn Tech in Monday’s playoff opener.
While the Tigers saw their magical run come to an end Monday in a 15-3 loss at Tech, it was hard to find even one RKA player or coach deflated by the loss.
“They had a roster twice as large as ours,” Hirsh said. “We were a little outmanned and outgunned but the kids played well. We lost, but it was a very successful season as far as everyone is concerned and I’m very proud of them.”
When you consider that RKA held the vast majority of its early-season practices in the school’s cafeteria and gymnasium due to lack of access to fields — some due to weather, some to availability — and that the team finally found itself fully equipped just three days before the start of the season, what the Tigers accomplished was nothing short of phenomenal.
“Honestly before ever seeing the team and knowing what our schedule would be like I really had no clue what to expect,” Hirsh said. “With a first-year program, you hope to get a couple of wins. But after seeing how we were playing and talking to some people that have been in the league for a while, I thought 7-9 or 8-8 was a realistic expectation.
“I was pretty confident that would get us into the first round of the playoffs,” he added. “We won a lot of games I thought we could win, were close in a lot of others and played well in all of them.”
But even the gritty Tigers knew they would have their hands full against a Brooklyn Tech team that had won 20 of its last 22 games.