Supporting Senior Goal-Getters

The last four years of high school have been a long, winding journey for the graduating class of 2023. This school year is speedily coming to an end, so it is important to remember who has helped the seniors make it through the last eighteen years. 

The seniors of Key West High School’s (KWHS) two-consecutive district championship-winning girls’ lacrosse team took the time to look back at the supporters who guided them toward their success on and off the field. All of the players owe their work ethic and dedication to the sport to their parents. 

Division two bound senior captain Isabella “Bella” Marchiano shared how her parents have shaped her view on the game of lacrosse and life. “My parents are my inspiration because they have taught me to do whatever makes me happy in life. They have never held me to any expectation and always tell me to just try my best,” exclaimed Marchiano. “They have taught me to ‘let your greatest deeds go unnoticed.’ Both my mom and dad have supported me through everything, and I know they will always have my back!”

Ada Van Loon and her family happy to be together on her Senior Night. Photo provided by Sarah Baxter

Another captain, Ada Van Loon, agreed with Marchiano on the major impact her parents have had on her life. “My parents have always pushed me to do my best and have supported me through everything. They have shown me how to be a compassionate and kind individual. They’ve always encouraged me to achieve my goals. I wouldn’t be who I am today without their influence.”

The graduating seniors learned traits such as excellent sportsmanship and perseverance from the strong role models in their lives. Namely, their mothers molded these young women into the determined individuals they are today. 

Senior attacker, Michaela Kevalova, elaborated on the inspiration her mother provided. “My mom has done so much for me and is the strongest woman I know. She has always been there for me and has helped me through tough times. My mom works so, so hard to provide for our family, and she never gives up, even when times are tough.” Kevalova continued, “She taught me the importance of perseverance and hard work. I am so grateful for her guidance and support. She will always be the person I love and look up to the most.”

Kathryn “Katie” Collins, senior midfielder, also expressed her gratitude and appreciation for the role her mother played in her life. “My mom is such an amazing person. She’s always there for me, no matter what. Whenever I need support, she’s always there to listen. Her love and kindness are inspiring to me. She has taught me so many lessons about how to treat people and how to be a better person. I truly take everything she tells me to heart. My mom deserves everything in the world.”

Katie Collins and her mother proud to be standing with each other on Katie’s Senior Night. Photo provided by Sarah Baxter

Captain Rachel Owens explained that her mom immensely impacted her as a leader on the team. “She pushes me to be a good teammate while supporting me to be the best player I can be. Without her devotion and constant encouragement, I would not have been able to be the player I have become.”

Owens also praised one of her fellow captains, Bella Marchiano, as being “one of the most positive influences” throughout her entire lacrosse career. The teamwork and leadership members of the KWHS girls’ lacrosse team exemplify cultivates a constructive environment to grow as leaders and improve their skills. Owens elaborated, “We joined lacrosse together ten years ago, and we’ve always remained by each other’s side. She challenges me, as well as grows with me. She is an incredible friend with nothing but kind intentions, always.” 

Family and friends sculpted these responsible young women, but their educators have played a large part as well. Sophia Felini, the current Commanding Officer of KWHS’s Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) unit and midfielder, claims she owes her success to the values taught to her by the sponsor of NJROTC, Brian Flanagan. “Being my ROTC instructor, he has not only taught me the Navy’s core values: honor, courage, and commitment but has taught many, many life lessons as well. He has taught me how to be a leader, how to stick up for myself, and how to be a better person.” 

Senior defender, Devan Bittner, conveyed her appreciation for a particular teacher who showed her how to be a positive influence and a leader: Paula Mercer. “From the moment I stepped into her classroom, it has always felt like such a positive environment to be in. I love the way she teaches and I learned a lot in Advance Placement (AP)  Government and Politics, even though I went into the class thinking I would hate the subject. Outside of the classroom, Ms. Mercer is still incredibly supportive of me and my successes, always asking me what is currently going on for me and cheering me on!”

Devan Bittner and Rachel Owens hugging after a game-winning goal was scored. Photo provided by Sarah Baxter

These girls achieved so much during their years at KWHS and on the girls’ lacrosse team. The seniors brought pride to KWHS and Key West through their grit and determination each and every time they step onto the field. As they embark upon their next journey, wherever it may lead, they will remember the people who supported and uplifted them every step of the way.

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