Parkland, Florida - Eleven days after 17 classmates and faculty members were killed in a mass shooting at their school, hockey players representing Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School won a state championship. The players, who sprang a pair of upsets as the lowest-seeded squad in a four-team tournament played this weekend, dedicated their title to the victims.
"We came into the game knowing we had to give it our all to get the win, and that's what we did, and now we get to bring the trophy back to the best high school in America," senior Joey Zenobi said Sunday, after his Parkland, Fla., team capped its run in the Statewide Amateur Hockey of Florida tournament with a 7-4 win over Jesuit.
Earlier in the day, Douglas beat top-seeded East Lake, 3-1, and the school is now eligible for the high school hockey national championships, to be held in Plymouth, Minn., next month.
"We almost didn't even come here, because we didn't know if we wanted to play or not," senior Ronnie Froetschel said (via WBBH). "I was glad to be alive, and I live for them now."
For the first time since the Feb. 14 shootings, for which 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz was arrested, students and teachers began returning to the school Sunday. They were there to attend a voluntary orientation ahead of the resumption of classes on Wednesday, and one 16-year-old student described it as "nerve-racking" to be back on campus.
Another student, a 15-year-old who hid in a closet as Cruz killed 17 and wounded 15 others, said (via the Miami Herald) that it gave him "hope to see the once broken coming back together again." Counselors and therapy dogs were also on hand to help ease the transition.
According to reports, 17 players went to Estero, Florida, to represent Douglas in the tournament. The team said it planned on placing its championship medals at their school's memorial to those who died.
"This wasn't for us, this was for the 17 victims. We played for them," Zenobi said. "So passionate, so emotional - it's all for them."