No longer the Stahrr of the show

No longer the Stahrr of the show

The former Syracuse goalie may have graduated, but the lessons lacrosse taught her live on long past her playing days.
Published: July 11, 2021

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Bri Stahrr joined the Syracuse women's lacrosse team as a goalie in 2016. While her playing time was limited, it was an experience she wouldn't change for the world.

When she was younger, Bri Stahrr envisioned herself destined to play soccer. She focused all her athletic prowess on that one sport — spending every waking moment practicing in the backyard — and it remained that way until her parents told her she needed to add another activity to her résumé. They suggested lacrosse, a logical choice in New York, the state with the most high-school aged players and the most teams in the NCAA.

But Stahrr hated lacrosse. A native of North Syracuse, she possessed little interest in the game that has earned Syracuse University 10 national championships since 1983. Her coordination hadn’t clicked, and her new sport relied heavily on the upper body, a stark difference from the soccer skills she’d acquired over the years.

But then things changed, and Stahrr’s love for the game grew. She would come home from school and play wall ball for hours. She tried to perfect her hand-eye coordination, which hindered her field play. In seventh grade, her team needed a goalie, and her coach placed Stahrr between the pipes. Like her previous experience getting into the game, the position wasn’t a fit – at least immediately.

“I didn’t want to be a goalie. I was very against it,” Stahrr said. “I was fine playing on the field. But then they forced me to be goalie and that first game, I played really, really well. I was surprised at how well I played. And from that point on, I knew that I was going to be a lacrosse goalie until the day I graduated college.”

Stahrr’s new goal became playing lacrosse at the highest level possible. She worked for it, devoting after-school hours to perfect her game. When she was 15, she committed to Syracuse, and a few years later her college career began.

As a freshman, Stahrr was quickly humbled. Sure, she was now part of the less than 2 % of the population who become Division I athletes. Her name appeared on the roster of one of the top programs in the country. She’d beaten the odds – 47 to 1 – of making the team.

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Stahrr sits in the stands of the Liverpool High School football and lacrosse field. She teaches high school English and then returns to her alma mater, Cicero-North Syracuse High School, as an assistant coach for the girls' lacrosse team.

But part of what comes with signing on to Syracuse is competing for starting spots with the best players in the nation. In her first season, she took shots from one of the best players in program – and, generally, lacrosse – history, Kayla Treanor, who recently was named the head coach of Syracuse women’s lacrosse. Graduate student Allie Murray, who started all 24 games for the Orange during Stahrr’s freshman year, filled the crease.

The next year, sophomore Stahrr was positioned in the middle of three goalies. Ahead of her was junior tender Erin Coleman. Coming in as a freshman was a name now plastered in the program record book: Asa Goldstock. From that moment, Stahrr’s crease belonged to Goldstock, and the freshman phenom became former coach Gary Gait’s go-to goalie.

Goldstock played 91 games in an Orange jersey; she started in 90 contests. In only one game, she conceded the starting spot, and it was for Stahrr’s senior day. On April 16, 2019, Stahrr stood between the pipes for the first 1:21 against Cornell. After the first goal, she returned to the sidelines, and Syracuse struggled to pull out a 16-13 win.

In four years with Syracuse lacrosse, Stahrr appeared in 23 games, playing just shy of 200 minutes. She made 26 saves and was credited with one win. Her win came in a 12-11 overtime victory over Virginia Tech after she replaced Goldstock at the start of the second half. She picked up five ground balls and caused one turnover to round out her career stats.

In her senior year, Stahrr was selected as a Remembrance Scholar, and she chose to represent Turhan Ergin, a walk-on on the Syracuse men’s lacrosse team who was killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

“We learned about the victims and then wrote about who we wanted to represent,” Stahrr said to in 2018. “I picked Turhan because he was a lacrosse player like me. I met his cousin and spoke with his brother. That really personalized it for me.”

On paper, Stahrr’s career can be summarized in a handful of sentences. The stark reality is that only so many players are chosen to start, and the rest of the roster has two options: watch and support from the sidelines or leave. For Stahrr, the latter was never an option.

“Honestly, I just loved it. I love my teammates. I love playing lacrosse. I love having the opportunities that I got as an athlete. The opportunity to stand on the sideline was just amazing,” said Stahrr. “That’s not for some people. Some people want to be the ones that play. But, for me, I was content. That’s not the life for everybody. But I knew my 12-year-old self would have wanted me to play all four years and not give up on it.”

She didn’t give up, and she recognizes now that there were silver linings to being a backup. Escaping the pressure carried by starters put the fun back in the game. She had more time to devote to academics, which was important for the education major who needed to complete student-teaching placements for her degree.

“I could not imagine having to balance that on top of being a starting goalie,” Stahrr said. “The things I learned as a backup goalie, I never would have learned as a starter. I never would have become the leader that I did. I never would have become as mentally strong as I did. I never would have become, honestly, the person I am today without being the backup. I think I would be a very different person if I was just the starter all four years.”

Stahrr looks back on her time at Syracuse fondly, even if it didn’t go the way she imagined. Without lacrosse, she admits she wouldn’t have lifelong friends. One of those people is Coleman, who Stahrr bonded with through their shared experience as sidelined backup goalies. Because of that, Coleman understands why her friend stayed on the team.

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Photos of Stahrr from her high school playing days, when she discovered that goalie was the position she was meant to play.

“It’s not just about being on the field,” Coleman said. “I don’t think your playing time should define your experience. It’s what you get out of it. That’s just life that comes with being an athlete. The community and the friendships that I made, I don’t think that was worth the sacrifice of quitting. At the end of the day, no one really asked me if I was on the field. It’s just hearing that I was a part of such an amazing program, and that in and of itself is a great opportunity.”

Both women talked about the friends that became family, and how that was part of the main reason for their dedication to Syracuse lacrosse. But with athletic teams – especially at the collegiate level – there is always an inkling that those groups aren’t as close as they make it seem. But according to both Stahrr and Coleman, it’s not just a façade at Syracuse.

“You go through so much together, all the highs and lows of the season, all that emotion,” Stahrr said. “You’re going to come closer together no matter what.”

Coleman echoed her friend’s observations. “It really was a sense of community, a sense of belonging. Everyone was accepted no matter what,” Coleman said. “At the end of the day, we all had each other’s back. It was more than a community. It was a family.”

Stahrr and Coleman spent a lot of time with their lacrosse family, especially splitting time as player and cheerleader during games. Because she wasn’t a starter, Stahrr was able to adjust to what life would be like without lacrosse – or at least what she could do with more time and less stress. That’s why, when she accepted a job teaching at Liverpool High School, she planned to step away from lacrosse for a while.

But that’s the tough part about spending most of your life as an athlete. It becomes a part of your identity. Lacrosse came calling, this time with a coaching opportunity. As a teacher, and someone hoping for a way back into the game, she couldn’t turn down that chance. Come fall, she’ll spend the day teaching English at Liverpool, and then she’ll travel 15 minutes across town to coach the next generation of lacrosse players at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

Standing outside the gate leading to Liverpool’s football field, she smiles when she talks about Syracuse, about her friends, about the possible options for the new head coach, even though she already knows who was picked. Her lacrosse stick – with ‘Cuse’ in orange on the metal shaft – twists in her hands with each word. Stahrr never left lacrosse, and in return, the game never left her.