When the Byram Hills High School girls’ varsity team defeated Friends Academy on Nov. 5 at the Billie Jean King National Training Center in Queens, they didn’t just complete a perfect 22-0 season. They became the first female athletic team to capture a state championship in the school’s 55-year history.
On Sunday morning, the school district, the Town of North Castle and the entire community celebrated their extraordinary accomplishment with a celebratory parade before adding the team to the sign recognizing the school’s state champions on Route 128 before entering downtown Armonk.
They join the 2007 boys’ varsity soccer team and 2015 baseball team as the only squads to capture a state title.
“I could not be more proud of this team,” said Head Coach Michael Racanelli. “So guys, thank you. Thank you for all the dedication, for all the long hours and the hard work.”
Following the parade that started at H.C. Crittenden Middle School and ended at Town Hall, each team member was introduced at the ceremony. They then made the short walk over to the town’s state champions sign.
Eva Shrayer, one of the senior captains who was on the court when victory was clinched, said what made this year’s team special was the closeness that developed as soon as the season started.
“Ever since Aug. 23, when we stepped foot on the court for the first time since tryouts, we honestly became a family. It’s a team like no other,” Shrayer said. “I’ve been on the team for four years. This team was the closest it’s ever been. We’re all sisters, we’re all family and these are bonds we can never break.”
For Alyssa Margolin, another senior captain, a major test was the sectional finals when the team was battling key injuries, forcing several regulars out of the starting lineup. Their replacements saved the season and kept the championship dream alive, she said.
“I think the rest of the team did their best to step up and help us get the win despite people not being able to play,” Margolin said.
Racanelli said the combination of having outstanding senior players as well as other members who not only had high school varsity experience but tournament play under their belts was a significant factor in their success Even so, in their first meeting last spring, which Racanelli called the most important meeting of the season, he recalled imploring the team that if they gave their all, anything was achievable.
“I brought them in and they thought I was retiring, but no, (I said) I want you to all work hard because anything is possible when you do so,” Racanelli said. “When you play hard, you work hard, anything is possible, including being champions.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jen Lamia told the players that their achievement and how they carried themselves will be emulated by future players for generations to come.
“What an accomplishment, not only of their sport, of their academics but of their ability to work together as a team and take Byram Hills straight to the top,” Lamia said.
Athletic Director Rob Castagna thanked the players’ parents for their support during a season that extended nearly three months. He also recognized junior varsity head coach Jessica Woolf, who started with the district nearly 30 years ago and helped develop some of the players as well.
“We don’t know where we’d be without her,” Castagna said. “Coach Racanelli and Coach Woolf make a wonderful team. We are blessed to have them.” The team will also be part of the Frosty parade that kicks off the holiday season, scheduled this year for Sunday, Nov. 28.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/