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June 11, 2009

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Springside stick stars destined for DC

Springside School juniors Courtney Caputo and Nicole Lombardo will not be playing lacrosse together in college, but they will not be playing very far apart, either.

Both stick standouts for the Lions recently made verbal commitments to play Division I lacrosse in Washington, DC, Caputo at Georgetown University, and Lombardo at American University.

“It was exciting to see them develop so quickly and attract attention from Division I schools,” remarked Springside coach Liz Harris, herself a former head coach at Lehigh University. “It’s impressive, because neither of them played lacrosse until the eighth grade.”

Both universities already had connections to the Springside lacrosse program. Caputo is actually the fifth Lions player this decade to commit to Georgetown, following midfielder Jessica Marabella (Class of 2000), goalkeeper Maggie Koch (’03), and attackers Zan Morley (’04) and Bunny O’Reilly (’05).

Koch’s younger sister Maeve, a 2006 Springside graduate, is a goalie-turned-midfielder who just finished her junior year at American University.

Both of the Lions’ latest recruits are midfielders, but Caputo, with 108 career goals so far, plays more of an offensive role, while Lombardo is a primary link in the transition game, and plays a lot of one-on-one marking defense.

“Courtney is fierce and she’s an incredible athlete,” Harris said. “She’s a strong girl for a high school junior and she knows how to use her strength. Her shot is a bullet, and she’s learning to vary her shot placement to keep goalies off-balance.”

The word “workhorse” comes up a lot when the Lions’ mentor discusses Lombardo, who usually takes the center draws for the Springside squad.

“She can really move that ball through the midfield,” Harris said. “She does the things that a team needs to have done, but that don’t get the glory. Things like face-guarding the top player on the opposing team, which essentially meant she was giving up the chance to put numbers on the stat sheet in order to take an opponent out of the game. I think her versatility helped her attract the college coaches.”

The two lacrosse recruits are three-sport athletes at Springside. Both play soccer in the fall, and in the winter Caputo plays basketball and Lombardo is a member of the swimming team.

Caputo, who was named MVP of the soccer team last fall, played softball during the spring season for many years. She tried lacrosse in the eighth grade at Springside, while still playing club softball outside of school for her CYO team.

“I almost went back to playing softball at school in ninth grade,” she recalled. “Our lacrosse coach, Brooke Fritz, convinced me to stay with lacrosse, and I fell in love with it. I think part of the reason was that it was still new to me, so it was more of a challenge learning to play.”

She and Lombardo began to play club lacrosse for the Ultimate Goal team, where both of their coaches had been college stars and provided valuable input as they mulled over the prospect of playing at the next level.

“I was looking all over the place,” said Caputo, who got to talk about Georgetown with a former Springsider when O’Reilly came to watch the Lions play. “The first time I went to Georgetown I loved it, and from then on it was my top choice.”

By this time, Hoyas head coach Ricky Fried was familiar with the Springside program, and Caputo was told by the coaches “they liked my athletic ability and my potential to develop as a player. Ricky’s really good at working with players and I think I’m going to get a lot better there.”

Oriented towards math and science in the classroom, Caputo sought a strong academic program, and Georgetown also filled the bill in that respect.

She says she wants to keep honing her stick skills and take her conditioning to new heights during her last year of high school, and Coach Harris noted that she’s refining her game tactically, as well.

“One of the things we’re working on is having her attack through pressure,” the Lions’ leader said. “She often draws attention from a couple of defenders, and I think one of her biggest improvements this season was in seeing the open space, and creating space for herself.”

Springside’s Lombardo was a figure skater for seven years when she was younger, but when she tried lacrosse she found the same camaraderie she enjoyed when playing soccer.

“I loved the team aspect of it, all the great things you get from being on a team,” she explained.

That’s something she thinks will help her to quickly adjust to college life, as well.

“When you’ve committed to play a sport in college, as soon as you get there you’re part of a group of people who share a common love of something. It sort of helps you get started socially, and then you grow from there.”

Her brother and many other family members were soccer players, and when she first visited American University during the summer after her sophomore year, she met with the soccer coach there.

“The lacrosse coach wasn’t around that time,” she related, “but as soon as I stepped on the campus I loved it; the size, the location, what they offered academically, and obviously the sports piece of it.”

She began to lean more towards lacrosse, and she went back down to American for a “Junior Day” hosted by the stick squad.

“The team took me around, and they were so nice and they seemed like such a family,” she said.

At Springside, she enjoys English, as well as math and science courses, and she said that business and communications are among the college majors she’ll consider.

In lacrosse, she’s been supplementing her training in school with knowledge she’s gained from playing club ball and attending college clinics.

“Starting out in lacrosse I had athletic ability and speed,” she related.

“They sort of built me from the defense on up, so now I’m in the midfield. I’m still trying to improve my stick skills, and I think once I’m in college, focusing just on lacrosse will help a lot.”

She hadn’t planned to make a college commitment quite this early, but said she was being recruited hard by the University of Louisville, where she talked with the coaches and with a former Gwynedd Mercy Academy player, Bergan Foley.

“That sort of pushed the process along,” Lombardo said, “because it made me take my list and really narrow it down. I kept coming back to the same conclusion, that American was the place for me.”

She and Caputo both feel they have unfinished business at Springside, since their junior season didn’t turn out as they’d hoped. Eight starters and several reserve players had graduated from the Lions’ 2008 team, and early this spring there was a shake-up on the coaching staff, all of which helped lead to a winless campaign in 2009.

In years ahead, Springside’s Harris feels that Lombardo and Caputo’s late start in lacrosse will ultimately prove to be a positive.

“There’s a lot of upside going forward,” she observed, “because they both have a lot of room to grow in this game.”

 



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