A group of boys at a high school in Greensburg are carrying sticks these days, running around on a "pitch" and actually wearing skirts in public. That's what field hockey players do.
Introducing Dom Antonucci, Ryan McHugh, Eric Lewis, Tyler Hillman and Ben Kerestan -- all members of the Greensburg Central Catholic girls' field hockey team.
And you thought "Five Guys" was just a restaurant name?
It is not unheard of to see a boy playing field hockey in the WPIAL. It has happened numerous times over the past few decades at different schools. But five on one team? That is unheard of in the WPIAL, and is not being met with open arms around girls' field hockey circles.
Greensburg Central Catholic coach Molly Reese said the boys are playing because the team didn't have enough girls players. The squad has 16 players (11 play at a time).
But McHugh said he came out to keep in shape for boys' lacrosse season in the spring. Antonucci said he is playing "just to do it. It's just something you don't see, five guys on one team. Maybe it will be more guys interested in playing."
Greensburg Central Catholic is 3-0 this season after defeating Vincentian, 2-0, Thursday at Vincentian's pitch (field). The boys are making a major difference. McHugh has seven goals. He and Antonucci dominated play against Vincentian -- essentially because they were bigger, stronger, faster and quicker than anyone else. McHugh is 5 feet 8, 170 pounds, and Antonucci 5-7, 165.
The boys wear the same uniform as the girls -- all the way down to the skirts.
"I'll be honest, I don't think it's fair at all to have that many boys playing at one time," said Vincentian coach Lauren Dorsch. "Aside from fairness, I don't think it's safe. I have three girls out right now with concussions [before the Greensburg C.C. game]. Head injuries are prevalent in field hockey and I just don't think boys at this age should be playing against the girls."
This is the first season the "Five Guys" have played field hockey at Greensburg Central Catholic, although Antonucci did play two years ago for Greensburg Salem. Dorsch believes Greensburg Central is now one of the top contenders to win a WPIAL championship -- because of the boys.
Lewis plays goalie for Greensburg Central. Three of the other boys were always on the field against Vincentian. A few girls saw little playing time.
"Our girls didn't think it was fair, either," Dorsch said. "These aren't wimpy boys. They're strong boys. I mean, where do you draw the line? Is this a coed sport now? Are you going to be allowed to have 10 boys and one girl playing?"
Contrary to popular belief, there are no rules in Pennsylvania high school athletics to prevent gender crossing in sports, ever since a 1975 Commonwealth Court issued a permanent injunction directing the PIAA to permit girls to practice and play interscholastic sports with boys.
But it also works the opposite way. Boys can play any girls sport. For example, a boy could play girls' basketball, even if the school has a boys' basketball team.
Individual school districts, however, can come up with their own rules concerning gender crossing in sports, and a few have in eastern Pennsylvania. Four years ago, the WPIAL urged school districts to come up with their own rules.
"We asked districts to consider adopting a policy, so that these types of situations [like Greensburg Central Catholic field hockey] do not occur," said WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley. "But that's a philosophy the school district needs to develop, based on what their solicitor advises them to do."
Reese said her girls' players have totally accepted the five boys and she defends the idea of boys playing on the team.
"We've played against boys before when we've had an all-girls team, and we've won," said Reese, in her fourth season. "We're playing by the same rules as everyone else."
McHugh and Antonucci also play hockey and lacrosse.
"On our hockey team, girls are welcome to play, and our lacrosse team had a girl a few years ago," McHugh said. "Girls can play guys' sports, and our school doesn't have a men's field hockey team, so ... We're not doing it as a joke. If we were joking, we wouldn't go to practice five days a week for two hours a day."
Antonucci said, "I understand that this used to be a girls' sport. But over in India, it's a guys' sport. Pretty much in every other country, guys play. So why can't we play over here?"
Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1975.