Ginny Capicchioni ’01 is making history. “Making history” is a phrase that’s often tossed around by sports analysts, but in this case, it happens to be true. Capicchioni recently returned from tending goal at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in Prague. Make that the Men’s Indoor Lacrosse Championships. Capicchioni was the only women on any of the eight teams that participated in the event.
This is not the first time Capicchioni broke barriers in the world of men’s lacrosse. She was also the first woman to play in a men’s professional lacrosse team as a member of the New Jersey Storm and the first woman goalie to play in the Canadian championship.
Although the New Jersey native realizes she is breaking down doors for the women who may follow in her footsteps, the reason she does it is to get better at her craft. She first began playing lacrosse after her field hockey coach at Sacred Heart University asked her to. She admits she was not enthusiastic about the idea, but she also didn’t want to jeopardize her field hockey chances. After the field hockey season ended her freshman year, she threw herself into learning the game of lacrosse.
“There was an assistant coach, Tara Fisher, who had a passion for the game. She saw something in me and took me under her wing. Not only did she teach me skills, but she taught me the tradition of the game,” Capicchioni said. She said Fisher went on to become head coach the next year and built a passionate, committed team that played up to its potential.
In her junior year, yet another coach arrived – Laura Kolutz (now Cook). “She taught us technique and a higher level of play, but we were still all learning together,” Capicchioni said. “The students were going from not even knowing the game to playing on a Division I team, and our coach was going from graduating from college to being a head coach. It was great experience for me, though. Since we were novices, I had a chance to take a lot of shots on goal.”
Throughout her college career, Capicchioni played goalie for both the field hockey and lacrosse teams – a situation unlikely to occur today. “During my junior years, they stopped recruiting dual athletes as Sacred Heart. They believed it made more sense for student athletes to focus on just one sport.”
Photo by Larry Palumbo
Following graduation, Capicchioni was invited to try out for the U.S. women’s lacrosse team. She declined, because she wanted to try out for the U.S. women’s hockey team instead. When she was cut from the hockey team, she turned her attention back to lacrosse. After training for a while with a women’s team in Baltimore, Capicchioni felt her progress had stalled. She started playing with a men’s team. “It was a different kind of game, and I found I was pretty competent,” she said.
The turning point in her career came after breaking her collar bone while practicing with the men’s high school team at Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey. During her recuperation, she watched some indoor lacrosse on television. She decided to turn professional and play indoors. She ordered the equipment online and started playing. “It was similar to the crash course I had when I first learned the game in college,” she said.
After failing at an open tryout for the Colorado Monmouths (men’s team), Capicchioni was signed by the New Jersey Storm in December 2002. She quickly realized that she didn’t know anything about playing indoors, but her goal immediate was to become a skilled goaltender. So, she honed her skills playing in Canada in the summer and participated in the Canadian League from 2003-2011.
It’s been a long road, but what began at Sacred Heart led to a bronze medal as part of the U.S. Men’s team at the World Games in Prague this past May. “We hope to do even better in 2015,” Capicchioni said. Her future plans include hopefully being drafted for a new American League in December and playing for the Canadian League again next summer.
She credits her success to her parents’ encouragement and perhaps to her own ignorance. “My parents always taught me to be very strong and to have a thick skin,” she said. “And maybe I was exceptionally ignorant, but I always believed I could be as good as any man. I still have very high goals for the remainder of my career.”
She is also grateful to Sacred Heart. “My life right now is indoor lacrosse, and that life was born at Sacred Heart. If I had gone to any other school, I would not have the life I have now. Sacred Heart is where I learned to play. It’s where I first picked up a stick. In a way, that school is my birthplace, and I will always be grateful for that.”
Photo Credit: Larry Palumbo