As Riley Lucarelli stepped on campus for her sophomore year at Canisius College everything seemed normal. Everything seemed like it was after she finished her first year at the lacrosse team.
Besides a few graduation, the team that went to the NCAA tournament was large intact. In November that was all about to change. Everything that was normal was about to change - and she was going to have to adjust on the fly.
In November of 2017, long time coach Scott Teeter left his post as Canisius women’s lacrosse coach to take on the same job at Louisville. He left behind a very successful legacy - one that would be hard to match,
The lure of going to an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) school was just too hard to pass up. His leaving left a lot of players wondering what their futures may hold. Lucarelli was one of those players.
“It came as a big shock when coach Teeter told us he was leaving. It was hard to imagine someone else coaching us,” stated Lucarelli. “I felt disappointed and sad to see him leave, but yet I knew that he had been given this tremendous opportunity for himself and his family.
She was recruited out of Lancaster High School by Teeter to play for the Griffs. Now the coach that brought her there is gone. All of a sudden that comfort level was replaced by what ifs. Now, Lucarelli was going to have to prove herself all over again to a new coaching staff.
She had to prove to everyone that she belonged.
“You do feel like you have to prove yourself all over again with new coaches, but at the same time I would still come out each day and give it all I had,” stated Lucarelli. “I think you should loo at each season, each practice, each game as if it’s your first. You have to work your hardest each and every day and put in the time. I want to be the best player I can be. I think every season should be treated as if it’s a new team tryout.”
New coaches sides, Lucarelli has been in the she belongs mode since stepping on campus last year. She was a started, and a dominating defender, while playing at Lancaster High School. As a freshman, Lucarelli saw action but was’t a starter.
Not starting was something new to her, and something she had to gets used. More than anything, coming off the bench is a mindset. A player needs the right mindset to take a different role. Your freshman year really becomes a learning year. You learn how to play the game at that level. You realize very fast that you are just a small fish in a very large pond. I learned quickly that every player on the team was a phenomenal athlete. You are surrounded by talent.”
Lucarelli didn’t sulk when she wasn’t named a starter. She embraced the role and became a key asset to the team, and their run to the MAAC title and an NCAA tournament bid.
“It was definitely a transition for me. You get used to the way things are for you in high school, then all of a sudden you are playing in college and expecting everything to be the same, and it isn’t,” explained Lucarelli. “
If there is one thing you need to know about Lucarelli is that she has a lot of pride. Whether it’s coming off the bench or starting, Lucarelli only wants to do one thing and that’s to shut down the other team’s best player.
It’s a known fact that defenders don’t get a lot of love. They don’t score the goals, or make the most exciting plays. But, defenders are the ones that can win a game for you. If they can shut down the other team’s best player, there is a good chance for a win.
Lucarelli was one of the best defenders at Lancaster and she has brought that reputation over to the Griffs. She gets as much pleasure shutting down someone, and keeping them off the score sheet, as an attack gets when scoring a goal.
“You rarely see a defender mentioned in the paper or showcased on the television, but that’s alright,” stated Lucarelli. “There was no greater satisfaction for me than knowing that I was responsible for shutting down a top goal scorer in high school. I would want to go against the best on their team, knowing it would make me a better defender.”
When Lucarelli got on campus last year she had to think it looked pretty familiar. At times you could say that Canisius is the Lancaster of the city. There have been numerous players who have gone to Lancaster High School them played Division I lacrosse at Canisius.
The pipeline is a who’s who of players - including current senior Allie Stewart. Stewart was an all-everything at Lancaster and just one of many to come to play at Canisius. Being able to know people right away made it comfortable for Lucarelli.
Sure it was an adjustment. But, she also has the comfort level to fall back on.
“There has been a long list of Lancaster lax players that have gone onto play for Canisius,” stated Lucarelli. “Allie and I are teammates currently. Obviously knowing how talented all of these girls were in high school, and them watching them go on to have great careers at Canisius, gives me something to aspire to. It’s always nice to have a familiar face on the team. It definitely helps to put you at ease when you are a rookie trying to fit it.”
Now that she is settled in, Lucarelli has been able to look back at her first couple of years on the team. She makes sure she stays focused and grounded. It could be easy to have her mind wonder, but Lucarelli makes sure she puts her team and academics first.
“When you are playing a sport at the DI level, you really have to stay focused,” stated Lucarelli. You lead a very strutted life. Between practices, games, weight training, classes, studying, there isn’t much time for anything else. I make my team and my academics my first priorities.”