Lacrosse always comes first for Niskayuna’s versatile DiVietro

Niskayuna's Marisa DiVietro is not so much a lacrosse player as she is an athlete who plays lacrosse
Marisa DiVietro of Niskayuna is a multi-sport athlete, but everything she learns in other sports is geared toward becoming a better lacrosse player.
Marisa DiVietro of Niskayuna is a multi-sport athlete, but everything she learns in other sports is geared toward becoming a better lacrosse player.

Jason Bach laughs when he tells the story.

It was two years ago during a game against Bethlehem. Then-sophomore Marisa DiVietro was in her first season on the Niskayuna girls’ lacrosse team, and her head coach was waiting for the midfielder to panic. Off a restart, DiVietro had possession, a defender at her back and two in front of her. She had no room to run and little chance of sailing a pass through the defenders’ upraised sticks to an open teammate 15 yards away.

“So the whistle blows and she up-fakes a pass, and then rolls the ball on the turf to her teammate,” Bach said. “It was cartoonish.”

But that the unorthodox play came from DiVietro, now a senior who will play next season at the University of North Carolina, made sense. While not a typical maneuver for a lacrosse player, DiVietro is not so much a lacrosse player as she is an athlete who plays lacrosse. Bucking the growing trend of high-level athletes focusing on one sport, DiVietro — who led the Suburban Council in goals (59) and assists (35) this season — has played a little of everything, and her non-lacrosse athletic experiences are evident in the way she plays.

“Her exposure to other sports makes her more imag­inative, makes her a more creative player,” Bach said of the star of his team, the defending Section II Class B champions. “She can look at a situation, and do something about it.”

For sure, some of that ability comes directly from playing lacrosse. DiVietro never played basketball — “I was always too small for that,” the 5-foot-2 senior said — so the way she effectively runs the pick-and-roll with a teammate is a skill she developed playing lacrosse. But the way she transitions from sprinting through open space into making hard cuts in traffic with her eyes up looking for open teammates, there’s a lot of ice hockey there — and also some cross country, track, soccer and field hockey.

“Really, all the sports I’ve played have helped with my lacrosse,” said the 17-year-old DiVietro, who has also given baseball, golf and swimming a tryt at different points. “Like, with cross country — of course — that’s endurance where it helps me to just keep running up and down the lacrosse field, while hockey helped me with my wrist strength and helped me see the field better.”

While DiVietro stars in the spring as a lacrosse player and plays the sport throughout the year with her club team, she has also competed in cross country throughout her high school career. This past winter, she also took up indoor track and field while continuing to play club ice hockey.

DiVietro said her future coaches at North Carolina encouraged her to keep playing multiple sports even after she committed to them in 2014. She liked that, but what

DiVietro didn’t know is that her playing more than lacrosse in high school was also a reason for North Carolina head coach Jenny Levy’s interest.

“There’s not one player in my program who was a single-sport athlete in high school,” said Levy, the 2016 ACC Coach of the Year.

That’s by design. Levy said one of the first things she checks for in a prospective recruit is to make sure she plays another sport. Lacrosse-only athletes get “red-flagged” and removed from consideration. No exceptions.

“I really believe in it. I was a three-sport athlete myself in high school, and I really enjoyed the dynamic of all the different teams I played on,” Levy said. “Some were more successful than others, and it encouraged you to learn how to deal with different kids on different teams. There’s a social piece to that [aspect] that’s really important. But it’s also good for your body and your development, as well as your athletic IQ.”

The idea that playing multiple sports more adequately develops an athlete’s entire body while also allowing sport-specific muscles a chance to rest is an accepted concept. The social aspect Levy references, though, might be more important. If an athlete only plays the sport in which he or she stars, the ability to cope with struggles at the college level might not be there.

“They’re used to being a star, a high-achiever, and failure to them is very scary,” Levy said. “They haven’t failed a lot and it’s unfamiliar territory for them . . . and struggle is really important, both individually and collectively. On the backside of struggle — if you work through it — is potential brilliance, but you never learn that if you’ve never struggled.

“So it’s OK not to be the best in every sport you play.”

For DiVietro, cross country was a sport in which she competed but did not star. She was good enough to be a part of Niskayuna’s scoring lineup, but was not her team’s best runner. In the Section II championships, she finished in 40th place in her division as a senior.

“I knew I wasn’t the best [in that sport], but I also knew I could train with [my teammates] and get better for my other sports,” said DiVietro, who was an area champion during the indoor track season in the 600-meter run. “They pushed me to my limits, which was cool because I didn’t really get to experience that with my other sports.”

Like Levy, Bach said he finds multi-sport athletes more willing to take on new things within a sport. It doesn’t scare them that they might fail. That’s why when the Silver Warriors lost senior draw-control specialist Alissa Franze to a late-season injury, Bach immediately turned to DiVietro to take on a chunk of that role even though she had no high school game experience with the task.

As the coach expected, DiVietro quickly developed a knack for it.

“Really, you could probably put her into anything and she’d figure out how to win at it,” he said. “She’s a competitor and being exposed to different scenarios, situations and contests helped to develop that.”

Categories: High School Sports

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