When Mary Drago got word that her friend had died, she rushed to the family home and was understandably distraught.
Courtney Syrett consoled her. Somehow.
It was Marianne Syrett, Courtney’s mother, who had passed just two hours before, succumbing at 52 to leukemia.
But there was Courtney, with an arm around her field hockey coach and providing the reassuring words.
Courtney, a star athlete at Bay Shore, is probably best known for leading the Marauders to the 2011 Suffolk Class AA softball championship - coming off crutches while still recovering from an ankle injury and blasting a dramatic home run, which preceded a Kirk Gibson-esque hobble around the bases.
But it was on February 20 of this year, perhaps, when the teenager’s strength and resolve was truly displayed. “To have gone through what she has during high school without ever faltering is remarkable,” Drago said.
Marianne Syrett had first been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, during Courtney’s freshman year. She was the third player on Bay Shore’s field hockey team to lose a parent since 2010.
“I’m doing pretty good now,” Syrett, a senior, said last week. “I’m still getting used to doing things on my own instead of relying on a parent. It’s always going to be tough without her, but I’m getting better.”
She has gotten better on the field, as well. Sports provided “a good distraction for me,” she said, and there was no hesitation in going forth with softball in March.
“Courtney has always been able to handle any situation at any moment,” said Drago, who is close to the Syrett family. Courtney is her babysitter and her older sister, Justina, was a standout goalie for the Marauders. “She’s always had this amazing poise and calmness, which makes her such a great leader.”
Throughout softball season, Syrett wore pink wristbands with her mother’s initials and channeled her emotions on the diamond. She her best season yet, batting .553 with six homers, again earning Newsday All-Long Island honors, and committing to Ole Miss.
Syrett has locked in, too, as a field hockey player. The midfielder, who scored 13 points last season, is now captain of a Bay Shore squad off to a surprise 5-1 start. She scored the deciding goal in a 3-1 upset of Ward Melville last Tuesday.
“A couple years ago, maybe she didn’t take [field hockey] as seriously,” Drago said. “Now she realizes that she loves the sport. Maybe not as much as softball, but she loves it and she definitely loves this team. This group has been through a lot over the years, and I think all that has brought us together.”
Bay Shore will host its annual breast cancer fundraiser game on Oct. 13, before their game against Connetquot. “[Marianne] was like the team mom,” Drago said. “She would knit scarves for the breast cancer games and everyone would buy them. She was wonderful. It’s not surprising that her daughters are the way they are based on how the parents were.”
Before each game now, she inscribes “MS” on her forearm as a reminder and motivator.
“She’s constantly in my thoughts,” Syrett said of her mother. “Everything I do now, I do it for her.”