The Grind: Gabby DiVirgilio, Lambert High School
Gabby DiVirgilio wanted in.
When she was growing up, she watched as her brother Jonny developed a love for lacrosse, honing his craft in the form of pickup games in the backyard, with goals set up. It didn’t take long before Gabby was playing, too.
“He was two years older than me and he started first,” DiVirgilio said. “When he started playing, I was like, ‘I want to be like him.’ I think I was like 5 or 6 when I got my first stick. I wasn't on a team, but I played outside with him.
“I used to be so scared to play with him because the ball would come at me so fast, so I'd be like, 'Oh my God, I need to learn how to catch when it's just coming so fast.' I feel like his skills helped me because he was really good.”
Jonny was certainly a great resource for her; he’s now a
freshman playing the sport for the Naval Academy.
Once Gabby joined a team, she was hooked. And now, in her senior year at Lambert, she’s one of the most prolific girls lacrosse players in the county.
Last season, DiVirgilio set a school record with 86 goals, adding 12 assists and collecting 63 ground balls. As a midfielder, her role with the Longhorns is an important one, collecting draws and running the offense even when she’s not the one putting balls into the net. Speed is DiVirgilio’s greatest asset, and that quickness makes her job much easier.
“I feel like my position is the leader on the field, especially when it's offense,” DiVirgilio said. “If you get the ball on the draw, the middies at the top are who should be moving around working the offense, to work with the attack. I feel like middies run it.”
But while DiVirgilio’s always been a factor for the Longhorns in terms of talent, she’s also had certain aspects of her game that she’s had to greatly improve over her time at Lambert.
“Skill-wise she keeps getting better, but I think part of her game that was always lacking was her leadership on the team,” Lambert girls lacrosse coach Travis Church said. “I really think that that has grown. She's able to direct girls on the field, both offensively and defensively, and she can do it with some couth and with some eloquence to it, rather than sounding demanding or anything like that.”
That kind of leadership has helped foster relationships with her teammates. Her best friend is fellow senior Carlee Talty, another very productive scorer for the Longhorns. Their chemistry off the field has translated well to their performances during games.
“Everyone kind of calls us the dynamic duo,” DiVirgilio said. “So, when me and Carlee are on the field, we just know. I can look at Carlee, the ball's going straight to her stick. We need a goal — Gabby and Carlee. Just go out there and do your thing. We have that kind of telepathy, I guess you could say.”
After her senior year at Lambert is over, DiVirgilio will be following in her brother’s footsteps again. She’ll play college lacrosse at Mercer, which gives her the opportunity to stay close to home.
“I went to Mercer and I was like, ‘Wow,’” she said. “You just go to one camp and you're like, ‘Eh, they're all the same,’ but when you go to that one and you find that it's the one and you tour the school, you kind of know.”
In her remaining time with her teammates at Lambert, though, DiVirgilio wants to continue making an impact, not just in terms of offense and scoring, but in helping to maintain the kind of culture that the Longhorns have built.
“What she brings to our team is more than (goals),” Church said. “There's the old adage, ‘That's the person I want next to me in a foxhole.’ If I had to pick anybody in this state on the girls lacrosse team, I'd pick her in my foxhole. She plays hard whistle to whistle, she doesn't let anybody push her around — she does a little pushing herself. She's just a fierce, fierce competitor and it's something that I'm akin to and something that I've always respected in her.”