Kyle Kirby came into what she thought would be her final season with the Staples girls lacrosse team harboring realistic goals. Postseason titles, in a league with a national power like Darien and other storied programs, were probably not attainable.
But continuing the Wreckers’ upward trajectory in the sport was well within reach.
Asked last month for her hopes this season, Kirby said, “Definitely getting farther in states and FCIACs. Last year we lost in states in overtime to Wilton in the second round. That was a heartbreaker and it was such a good game too.”
The question will go unanswered, just as the final chapter in Kirby’s storied career will remain a blank after the spring sports season was officially canceled last week.
Little did Kirby know last November’s 4-2 win over Darien for the Wreckers’ fourth straight state title in field hockey would mark her final appearance.
“I played seven seasons between field hockey and lacrosse,” Kirby said. “It’s weird to think I’m never going to put on a uniform for Staples again.”
Kirby scored once in that final, closing one of the most prolific runs in school history. Kirby finished with 105 goals and 79 assists in just 38 games for the lacrosse team. Last year she averaged just over 6.5 points and nearly eight draw controls per game.
Despite missing her sophomore season with a torn ACL, Kirby ended up with 70 goals and 50 assists in 60 games for the field hockey team. Staples shared the FCIAC title last fall and the state title four years ago with Darien before a run of three straight outright championships.
While some may look at the numbers as Kirby’s legacy, those who played with and against her will most remember an unquenchable will to win.
“There’s no doubt that Kyle is an impact player,” said Nicole Gerosa, the Wreckers’ girls lacrosse coach. “Not only in lacrosse but field hockey as well. She’s one of those players you can immediately go to on the field. She was our MVP last season and we had high expectations for this season. She always gives it her all and then some. She strives to be the best and her work ethic is really second to none. She pushes everyone around her to be better and to play at her level.”
Kirby said she has to go all the way back to her opening chapter for the biggest of many memories.
“My first one would have to be my freshman year winning the state championship in field hockey because no one expected us coming into the season to really do much,” Kirby said. “Nobody knew Staples High School as a field hockey school and gave us a chance to get anywhere. I didn’t expect my first year at Staples, that was not in the back of my mind, I just wanted to get on the field. We were young as a team and we had an undefeated season. I remember it was a heartbreaking double overtime loss to Wilton in the FCIAC final and we ended up beating them in the state quarterfinals by a good margin and then finally making it to the state championship was awesome.”
Kirby’s future after Staples was long ago decided. She will play lacrosse at Notre Dame, though there was a temptation to continue as a two-sport athlete in college.
“For college I was looking at a couple of schools where I would have played both, but my dad went to Notre Dame and I’ve been going to football games so that has always been my No. 1 choice,” Kirby said. “And Notre Dame doesn’t have field hockey. If they had it I definitely would have wanted to play that too. It’s not an option.”
The academic side at Notre Dame will soon start. She was accepted into a bridge program for freshman athletes that will begin online next month. A decision will be made later this week whether the program can continue in July on the college campus.
Kirby’s selflessness has continued during these recent stressful weeks. Kirby noted that while she was disappointed at not getting one last season at Staples, underclassmen whose paths to college are undetermined will be hurt more, especially without a summer travel season.
“It’s pretty awful to think about not having a senior year, but I’m not the only person who has to go through this,” Kirby said. “I held on to some hope but I prepared myself to be ready to accept the fact that we’re not going to play.”
While Kirby never really got to close the book at Staples, she is mentally transitioning to starting a new one.
“I’ve known a lot of the girls who are going to be my future teammates for a really long time so I’m really excited to get out there and be with them. The team dynamic at Notre Dame is so awesome,” Kirby said. “The coaches are awesome, the players are awesome. Everybody is welcoming there too and the culture is unbelievable. I’m really excited to be a part of that after three years of being committed.