AUBURN, Wash. – For high school student-athletes the opportunity to continue with their sport at the NCAA level is a rarity – reserved for the hardest working, most talented of the bunch. Even rarer ground is the opportunity to join a brother or sister at the same college.
At Auburn Riverside High School that’s playing out for seniors Michael and Joey Lucchesi, who have signed National Letters of Intent to play lacrosse at NCAA Division II University of Tampa.
Most remarkable for the fraternal brothers is their older triplet sister Megan, also a lacrosse player at Auburn Riverside, who will join them next fall at the Florida school, albeit blazing her own path.
“It’s an honor to be welcomed into the University of Tampa family,” said Joey, the youngest of the trio from Buckley, a suburban community just a few miles southeast of Tacoma. “Tampa is a great place to thrive as people and lacrosse players. We’re grateful for that opportunity.”
Recruited by Tampa assistant Chris Burdick, who once guided Providence College to nine trips to the MAAC lacrosse tournament including three titles in 14 years at the Friars’ helm, before coming over to the newly formed Tampa program, the Lucchesis will have an opportunity to not just remain close, but help the now three-year old program compete for its first championship.
Playing for head coach Rory Whipple, Michael and Joey will join a Tampa squad that has a great start with back-to-back trips to the Deep South Conference lacrosse tournament capped by an 11-6-0 record and title game appearance last spring.
And they’ll be right at home, joining prep teammate and 2013 White River High School graduate, Mikey O’Connor who co-captained their Auburn Riverside squad last spring.
Playing with O’Connor and many of the offensive schemes learned in the recruiting process the Lucchesis thrived, helping Auburn Riverside finish first in the Division I South Sound Conference last spring before falling by a single goal to Bainbridge High School in the state quarterfinals.
As two-time All-State selections with Michael’s 58 points (13g, 45a) and 47 ground balls, earning second team honors at attack and Joey’s 34 points (23g, 11a) and 24 ground balls, earning honorable mention last spring, the Lucchesi brothers put some muscle on their athletic resumes by helping Auburn Riverside football to a share of the SPSL 4A title this fall.
Combined with GPAs hovering just below a perfect 4.0 and a highlight reel dominated by Lucchesi-to-Lucchesi feeds for goals, the fit was a natural for Tampa.
“They really liked it,” said Michael. “Coach Whipple contacted both of us and told us he liked the connection. Obviously being as close as we are off the field plays a big roll.”
And the closeness was a deciding factor for Megan, who also received an offer from the Spartans women’s squad after helping her lacrosse team to a third-place finish in Nisqually Conference play last spring.
For the senior with a passion for theater who has danced since the age of three, Megan is taking a wait-and-see approach to collegiate lacrosse and instead will focus on theater during her senior year in high school and a path to veterinary school at Tampa.
“I had an amazing opportunity to be asked to play at Tampa,” said Megan who went through the recruiting process with Tampa women’s coach Kelly Gallagher along with her brothers but opted to explore new horizons once is Florida.
“Lacrosse is my passion but a lot of people don’t know I danced for 12 years – ballet, jazz, musical theater,” Megan said. “Mom signed me up for everything.”
After landing a part as a freshman in Auburn Riverside’s Off-Broadway fall musical Urinetown, Megan took a leap of faith as a senior and threw her hat into the ring for this spring’s production of the Elvis-inspired juke-box musical All Shook Up.
“I got one of the leads,” she said. “That’s when I really realized that I loved (theater).”
Based on a Shakespearean play where everyone that is supposed to fall in love with a certain person, falls in love with another, the production is only fitting for a girl from a lacrosse family where dad Louis is the high school club’s coach and mom Kathi is a committed volunteer, that found an unsuspecting suitor.
“You express yourself on the lacrosse field, but you express yourself in a different way in dance,” she said.
“That’s one of the biggest things that I’m excited about,” said Megan, who still expects to stay close to her sport attending all of her brothers’ games and still has not ruled out walking on to the Spartans women’s squad as a sophomore.
“I’ll be able to make my own life but be with my brothers – my best friends.”
For Michael and Joey, it’s good ‘ole sibling rivalry that helped them make their way to collegiate lacrosse where 53 graduates of Washington state high schools received bids to play what has become the fastest growing NCAA sport during the 2012-13 academic year.
“Since the eighth grade our coach challenged us to compete with each other. He encouraged us to keep track of stats for bragging rights,” Joey said.
And keep track they have.
Beginning as kids playing for the Lake Tapps Lacrosse Club the two would make up backyard games, taking five shots on each other from just 12 yards out to perfect their reaction time.
“You always had to win by two,” Michael said. “We’d play for hours on end. On and on for bragging rights and then we’d move on to the next game.”
The endless gamesmanship shows in their high school stats.
Michael, who plays the attack position, is amassing goals as fast as his brother Joey can pass him the ball.
Through his junior season he has 147 points (56g, 91a).
And Joey, who as a midfielder is tasked with moving the play quickly up field but isn’t counted on to provide a lot of scoring punch, isn’t far behind with 95 points, but has an edge in goals with 64.
Following their official visit to Tampa in September, the Lucchesi brothers immediately felt at home with the Spartans offensive scheme.
“I can see us working well together. We already know a lot of their systems,” Michael said. “We’ll have a leg up going into our freshman year.”
To learn more about student-athletes from Washington state high schools committing to NCAA and NAIA lacrosse programs during the 2013-14 academic year, visit: 2013-14 Washington State NCAA Lacrosse Commitments.
About Lacrosse in Washington State
Lacrosse has over 100 years of history in Washington state with clubs playing in the early 1900s and high schools now in their fourth decade of state competition. With Native American origins, lacrosse is one of the oldest organized sports on the continent and today is considered the fastest growing sport in America. In Washington state, some 4,000 student-athletes attending over 200 high schools play prep lacrosse, while another 6,000 play lacrosse at the youth, adult and collegiate club levels throughout the state. For more information on high school lacrosse in Washington state visit http://www.WashingtonHSLAX.com.
~ Mike McQuaid, Sports Information Director, US Lacrosse — Washington State