The One and Only

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Jennifer Lee wants to teach history. Alexandria Imperato wants to research medicine for the Army. It makes perfect sense that Lee and Imperato, two students who make the rest of us look like slackers, would choose these as careers. Both made history this year by bringing girls’ lacrosse to Benjamin Cardozo and the PSAL. They did it by researching the sport until their search engines ran out of fuel.

Before the season began, the PSAL had six lacrosse teams and they were all for boys, but thanks to Lee and Imperato, that has changed.

Next year Tottenville is adding a girls’ team, and the year after that, more schools will likely follow. Lee and Imperato don’t know it yet, but years from now some politician running for something will look back and credit them with bringing girls’ lacrosse to the PSAL and giving females the same opportunities as men and making the world a better place.

Lee and Imperato just wanted to play lacrosse, a sport whose profile has risen slowly in the city.

“We saw the guys at our school playing lacrosse and we thought it looked interesting,” said Lee, a junior from Douglaston, who together with Imperato are team captains. “And we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great to start a lacrosse team?’”

Amen. But how do you develop a team when the players trying out don’t know the difference between a cradle and a check? And how did a couple of kids who think student government is a pseudonym for bake sale navigate the slippery bureaucratic slope of the Department of Education?

All it took was a computer with Internet access, a summer with nothing to do and an athletic director in Elaine Ruben, who presented a well-thought-out plan to the PSAL.

Lee and Imperato prepared arguments for bringing lacrosse to Cardozo last summer. From her computer, Lee delved into the underworld of lacrosse to find out about costs, and Imperato called schools on Long Island to see if games could be arranged. All the schools were receptive.

“We had a full binder full of information about the budget and copies of documents released from the Department of Education about title IX, the sports gender equity act,” said Imperato, a junior from Fresh Meadows. “We really prepared for every contingency, what we perceived as a possible argument.”

There were no histrionics, no “Matlock”-like speeches. In the end, the PSAL was so smitten with their presentation that it received the idea with open arms.

“There was really no reason to say no,” said Glenda Barry, the PSAL’s lacrosse coordinator. “Cardozo had a plan in place. They already had a coach. Ms. Rubin had the fields set up and the space reserved. They began organizing in the spring of 2003. They showed an interest in lacrosse and we tried to accommodate them.”

Ron Edson, a player at Lynbrook High School on Long Island and SUNY-Cortland, was called in to coach, and the team, which began as a club in the fall, had around 90 girls try out. US Lacrosse donated 32 sticks and a couple dozen balls to get things rolling, and all of a sudden what was once a dream was now a reality.

Cardozo would compete against schools with extensive lacrosse traditions. It wasn’t pretty — Cardozo finished the season 0-9 — but the players turned what could have been a miserable experience into a carnival atmosphere, spraying Edson with water after they scored the first goal of the season and taking pictures of the scoreboard after the game. Players even took pictures following the final game of the season, a 16-1 shellacking by the Portledge School in Locust Valley May 18.

“It’s a great thing because they’re just starting out and they’re only going to get better,” said Ian Freed, a sophomore on Cardozo’s boys’ lacrosse team, which is in a three-way tie for first place in the division. “Our coach, Walter Glenn, tries to finish practice early so we can watch them practice. We try to go to all their games.”

Reach reporter Mitch Abramson at by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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