Former South Side High School athlete Kelsey Gregerson was one of 100 players selected in the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League’s inaugural draft last week, joining elite players in a league aimed at elevating the female game.
The WPLL’s five teams — the New York Fight, Baltimore Brave, New England Command, Philadelphia Fire and Upstate Pride — will begin competing next summer, and Gregerson will be tending the goal for the Fight.
A four-year varsity athlete for South Side’s soccer and lacrosse teams, Gregerson graduated in 2011. Though happy to be part of the school’s soccer tradition, her true love was lacrosse, and she went on to play it for four years at Hofstra.
“Growing up…I always said I want to play professional lacrosse and I always got the response back like, ‘Kels, there’s no professional women’s lacrosse league,’” Gregerson recalled. “…Going into Hofstra and graduating, I wasn’t done. I don’t think anyone that just graduates is ever done playing the sport that they love.”
Out of college, she tried out for the Long Island Sound, a squad in the United Women’s Lacrosse League, and helped them win a championship in their first year. She was redrafted by the team this past season, and will now move on to the WPLL, which has a mission of allowing high-level competitors to continue playing lacrosse after college while also helping to develop young players to become future stars.
The league will also serve as an additional training ground for those wanting to compete internationally, WPLL Founder Michele DeJuliis said in a statement, regardless of what country they may play for. It kicks off with an exhibition weekend beginning on Sept. 30 in Sparks, Md., which will feature the players that were officially drafted on Aug. 23.
Gregerson, who studied physical education and health while at Hofstra, landed a full-time substitute teaching job at South Side Middle School, where she will also coach the eighth-grade soccer team. Come spring, she will be assisting Varsity Lacrosse Coach Robert Devlin for the second straight season, which Gregerson said has been a dream come true.
“She’s showing them how to be a high-level athlete and what it takes to succeed, and they all look up to her,” Devlin said. “She’s made my transition to coaching so easy.”
Devlin, the junior varsity coach when Gregerson entered South Side, remembered her talent in the net. “She wasn’t with JV too long,” he said laughing. “I got to see her basically in tryouts. That was about it, and then she went right to the varsity and she’s just never looked back.”
Last year, Devlin took over for Meghan Healey, who coached at South Side for 20 years. Spending four years developing Gregerson, Healey said she was one of the best players that she has coached.
“Kelsey as a player was fearless,” Healey told the Herald. “She was a captain for us and she was a leader and she was the backbone of our team. She loved lacrosse, she still does and her passion that she had for it really came out when she played.”
The league features some of the game’s best female athletes, Gregerson said, noting that she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. She added that as the game gets quicker and continues to evolve, having a professional league for youth to aspire to is important.
“For [young girls] to be able to watch these professional teams and dream about playing and being in our shoes,” Gregerson said, “that’s what you hope for.”