GREAT BARRINGTON — A year ago, Connor Parkinson and Ted Michaels were playing lacrosse against each other, with Parkinson suiting up for Lee while Michaels represented Monument Mountain.
This year, the two are going to be teammates.
For at least the 2016 season, the Monument Mountain boys lacrosse team is turning into a co-op, welcoming seven kids from the Lee program — which was already a Lee-Lenox co-op — into the Spartan program.
Both said the initial interactions were different, but one uniting theme has helped them to connect — the love of the game.
"Both of us share a common love of lacrosse, that's really kept us together," Michaels said. "We've had almost a rivalry between us in the past ... it's almost surprising how well we bond over the sport of lacrosse."
That bond will be tested this season. With the Spartans losing a large chunk of their roster coming into the year, only three varsity players from the Lee program are coming in to fill the void — Parkinson and his brother, Jake, along with Lee's Peter Romeo.
"I wasn't sure how it would be like at first because I didn't know many of these kids," Connor Parkinson said. "But they've been welcoming kids, they've done a good job of integrating me, my brother and the upperclassmen.
"They've just been a welcoming team. It's been a smooth transition."
The merger has brought on some unique hurdles to jump. With the Lee players familiar with their style, Monument coach Rob Leary has had to introduce his philosophy to a group of players that have already established themselves. The key for Monument in the early part of the season has been the new players' willingness to learn. While Monument could have picked up even more players from the Lee program if those players wanted to, Leary knows the group he has is committed to playing the sport, no matter which name is on the jersey.
"The guys that are here are committed to the game and the sport," Leary said. "We've been progressing as a team with Monument, we've had our hurdles here or there, but we've jumped over them.
"Now, with these guys, it's another thing along the way that we are going to try and build and make our team that much stronger and that much better."
The players agree.
"We are really working hard," Connor Parkinson said. "We have a lot of new kids, and it's always tough to pick up any sport and lacrosse can be especially tough. But everyone is working hard, and because everyone is working hard we are getting better."
Well enough to finally get Monument into the playoffs? Everyone involved hedged their bets on a playoff run, stating that the process has to play out, first. Finding a solid chemistry on the field will be the first step in seeing where this team can go.
"We hit it off from the start, we knew we were going to be together, so we were very open-minded," Michaels said. "But I think we don't really have that core bond yet. It'll come after the games — it's impossible to get now."
One thing is for certain, though: This year isn't so much about the players or the team, it's about the love of the sport.
"For me, it's not about the name on the jersey," Connor Parkinson said. "It's about playing lacrosse."
Contact Geoff Smith at 413-496-6254.