The Oceanside junior varsity lacrosse team dedicated its 8-3 May 4 victory over the Lynbrook Owls to team member Ava Salonia, who is battling leukemia.
Ava was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML, during the end of last year’s school term at Oceanside High School and has been undergoing treatment at Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center. Despite her illness, she’s remained a dedicated member of the Oceanside team by attending practices and keeping the team’s book.
All of the Sailors — including Ava’s younger sister, Ella, who also plays on the team — wore orange ankle socks for leukemia awareness during their game. The scoreboard display was changed to read “Team Ava,” the new unofficial name for the team and the chant for luck before and during the game.
Assistant coach Courtney Collins spoke of Ava and the family’s love of the sport. “She’s a kind, generous, hardworking, dedicated person,” Collins said. “Her family, especially her mom, they’ve been really involved in lacrosse.”
The Salonia family have always lent a helping hand to others, Collins said. “They’re willing to help anybody out and just, you know, for the community to help her out and the celebration of this game means a lot to us and a lot to her teammates, especially her family.”
Collins also emphasized that the lacrosse program itself is like a family: “Our whole Oceanside program is just a family, from varsity to JV.”
The Salonia family has been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received from the Ocean-side community, on the field and off. Ava’s father Ralph Salonia, who cheered Ella on in the stands at the game, expressed his gratitude: “The community has been amazing, they’ve been fantastic through this whole ordeal. It’s really been amazing. It really humbles you how people can come together and give you so much support. It’s been unbelievable. The Oceanside community is unbelievable.”
Ella was pleasantly surprised after the team’s win — which left them undefeated for the season so far — even though she scored three of their eight goals.
“It’s cool,” she said, out of breath. “I think it’s so nice (the team wore orange in support), I wasn’t expecting (to win).”
After the game, Ava returned home from the hospital on an orange carpet laid out by her family. The family expects she will be able to return to playing in the fall.