Lacrosse: LaRocco emerges at goalkeeper for District 155 co-op
Sometimes, life is about being in the right place at the right time.
For proof, just ask District 155 co-op senior goalkeeper Bella LaRocco. She had been a defender for the United-nicknamed team her first three years but battled a knee injury last year.
Little did she know that would open a whole new world for her beyond high school.
"Our goalie was graduating and our coaches were joking around, Do you want to step in goal?" LaRocco said. "And I'm like, Sure, why not?"
She's been so effective this season -- at 3.7 goals allowed, she's ranked second in the state -- that she got an offer to play goalie next year at North Central College in Naperville.
Who knows what that experience will take her in life, all because she had an injury and switched positions.
"We had a couple of goalies in our program at the freshman and sophomore levels, but I knew we had a lot of defense coming back," recalled coach Joe Capalbo, whose crew is 5-2 overall and 3-0 in conference. "Bella is just a really good athlete and I thought she could do a good job for us.
"She has surpassed my expectations, to be honest."
How did the North Central opportunity come about? Once again, it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
"I had a few offers at other schools, and my mom found North Central," she said. Mother and daughter made the trek to Naperville where, "we saw the coach there and he said, We're losing our goalie and you would be perfect."
Janik jumps to lacrosse:
Another interesting story from United is Colette Janik, a senior backer and hockey player who almost didn't go out for lacrosse. But she did, and she is now one of the team's best defenders, according to Capablo, who said Janik is playing an upward of 45 minutes per game.
That's a lot in lacrosse terms. But she's earned it.
"She's a tremendous athlete and her hockey background, knowing spacing and how to defend and physicality, just helped her transition," Capalbo said. "She's quicker than everybody and physical and filling that role for us."
Like her teammate LaRocco, Janik had an interesting route to lacrosse.
"It was very last-minute," she said. "Normally hockey conflicts in the spring, but I wasn't going to play this year. I was talking to some of the girls and they were like, You should totally do it."
She's likely to play club hockey at Ohio State next year, but for now, she's enjoying playing a new sport with her friends late in her high school career.
"I play defense in hockey and I was good at agility and stopping and starting," Janik said. "I'm a backer, so I'm always taking the middle and looking for cutters and supporting the ball and stopping and starting to make sure (offensive players) don't get past."
Jacobs surviving tough start:
At 1-4 overall and 1-2 in the Fox Valley Conference, it's been a tough start for Jacobs this season. But things are looking up for the Golden Eagles due to a nice blend of seniors and newcomers.
Senior attackman Danny Soto checks both of those boxes. He played his freshman year at Hampshire, then missed the next two years due to COVID-19. But he's emerged his senior year with Jacobs as a stabilizing force.
"He's been a surprise with his skill and leadership," coach John Bigler said. "He came back out this year and he's been a leadership-by-example player for us. The younger guys are looking up to him."
Those youngsters include sophomore midfielders Dan Curran and Will Von Eyser, who also look up to seniors like midfielder Logan Pepel and defender Evan Harris, both of whom spent copious time in the off-season improving their skills.
Pepel said he worked on his stick work and footwork by playing wall ball and practicing with his teammates. He also watched a lot of film and videos to apply those ideas to his game.
Harris, on the other hand, has been focusing on his leadership.
"I like to lead by example," he said. "I like to show younger kids how to do it, and explain on the field what we need to do. I think it is challenging at times, because I can get in my own head."
But it's all paying off, as Jacobs picked up its first win last Thursday 14-7 over McHenry.
"The first win felt absolutely awesome," Pepel said. "It finally felt like everything we were working so hard on paid off. I'm hoping this is the turning point where we realize what we can and letting us get more wins."