Hampton’s Suyama presses on after covid cancellations, torn ACL deny her final 2 lacrosse seasons

Saturday, June 19, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Emi Suyama knows life can throw a lot at you.

When the covid pandemic ruined her junior girls lacrosse season at Hampton, she was comforted by visions of her senior season.

But then a fluky skiing accident Dec. 17 at Hidden Valley left her with a torn ACL in her right knee, ending her final season before it had even started.

Just like that, her last two years of lacrosse — a sport she had played since fourth grade — were gone.

But through it all, Suyama kept positive.

“Going through life figuring you have a plan for everything and you have everything planned out just doesn’t work,” she said. “You have to roll with the punches.”

With that mindset, the 5-foot defender worked to strengthen her surgically repaired knee, undergoing a rigorous rehabilitation process.

Suyama, who graduated from Hampton earlier this month, attended every practice and every game — home and away — to support her teammates, even if it meant darting over to the field after physical therapy or a doctor’s appointment. When Hampton played at Butler in an early-season game in a blizzard, Suyama was there, huddled under blankets.

“Some of (my teammates) said, ‘You know, you don’t have to come to every practice,’ ” she said. “But I wanted to be there. … I think emotions were running high, especially this year and there was a lot of stress with school and other things because of covid, so I think moral support this year was really key.”

With Suyama cheering them on from the sidelines, the Talbots went 10-0 in Section 1-AA and reached the WPIAL Class AA semifinals.

“She was such a trooper,” coach Kelsey Viets said. “It’s a really hard thing to show up at every practice and every game with a smile on your face knowing that you are never going to step on the field.

“We were very careful as coaches to make sure that she wasn’t left out of anything. I said on senior night, ‘You’re walking on the field with your parents, just like every other senior.’ She was in the senior program. It was really important to make sure she was included in those things.”

Suyama had played 15 varsity games as a sophomore, scoring four goals, and had hopes of starting for the perennial WPIAL power as a junior in 2020, but the coronavirus scraped those plans.

Then, the torn ACL delivered another crushing blow.

“The dynamic was different because in junior year you knew you had something to look forward to and a this-too-shall-pass mentality,” she said.

“But then this year, whenever my ACL injury happened, it kind of turned to just making the best of everything and making the most of it. It was just different outlooks.”

Her teammates, meanwhile, were shattered by the news.

“I was really upset,” Hampton senior all-WPIAL goalie Annaliese Winklosky said. “The fact that you lose two years of lacrosse out of circumstances that you can’t control is so frustrating. It was shocking and unreal to hear about it.”

Suyama had stayed active during the covid shutdown, jogging trails and dancing, a lifelong passion that began at age 3 and has developed into a graceful, refined skill.

Last summer, Suyama volunteered with her father at covid testing sites at different Pitt campuses. She worked this year as a student representative at Hampton, acting as a liaison between the student body and the administration during a covid-impacted, hybrid school year.

Suyama was cleared recently to begin light jogging, and while she still “feels like a 50-year-old” trying to walk up and down steps, her knee is improving every day. She even has plans to perform a toned-down dance recital later this month.

Suyama will attend Northeastern and major in computational biology before pursuing her medical degree. She is also considering club lacrosse at the Boston school or maybe even martial arts or fencing.

“I’m just trying to get into something new in college,” she said.

For certain, Suyama said missing the final two seasons of lacrosse at Hampton — for two completely disparate reasons — will help her to cherish whatever life may bring.

“I just think after these past two years and knowing what it’s like to miss family and friends and not being able to do the physical things that I wanted to do will instill a gratefulness and an appreciation for every little thing I get to do for the rest of my life,” she said, “because I know what it feels like to not be able to.”


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