Jonny DiVirgilio never included the military dynamic into his vision of playing lacrosse in college. He had in mind places like the University of Utah and its majestic landscape views from campus. DiVirgilio loves to ski.
But the Lambert rising senior midfielder had a convincing ally and lobbyist on the Longhorns’ coaching staff: director of lacrosse Rich Wehman.
Wehman, a former All-American at the Naval Academy, planted the idea in DiVirgilio a few months ago, putting in motion a college decision that DiVirgilio never saw coming: committing to the Midshipmen last Thursday.
“You get to serve your country. The alumni after you graduate is pretty awesome,” DiVirgilio said. “The Naval Academy was the right choice.”
DiVirgilio has been a linchpin player for the powerhouse Longhorns since his freshman season. The midfielder has helped Lambert reach the Class 7A state championship the past two years with a title in 2016 and a loss to Lassiter this past spring. DiVirgilio is coming off a season in which he was named a high school All-American with 14 goals, 30 assists and 26 groundballs.
DiVirgilio adds another college-committed player expected to return next season for Lambert, which includes Kyle Lewis (Lynchburg College) and Peyton Miller (Rollins College).
DiVirgilio would join a storied Midshipmen program that won 17 national championships before the sport was sanctioned by the NCAA in 1971. Navy hasn’t maintained that championship level since, but they’ve remained a competitive program under head coach Rick Sowell that competes in the Patriot League.
DiVirgilio said he felt that history when he visited the Annapolis, Maryland, campus last week. Navy’s coaches had come to watch DiVirgilio in Lambert’s state playoff game against Centennial at Wehman’s behest. Afterward, they invited him to come to compete in a tournament.
“I knew the campus was awesome, but it blew my mind when I actually got on campus,” DiVirgilio said. “The buildings are just nice, all the culture and the history there.”
Helping matters is DiVirgilio’s connection with two other Navy recruits from Georgia in Harrison’s Jack Dennehy and Mount Paran’s Nathaniel Redder. DiVirgilio played with both on travel teams over the years. DiVirgilio won’t get to contribute right away; he’ll first spend a year at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island, then have four years of eligibility remaining.
DiVirgilio is optimistic about the Midshipmen’s 2018 recruiting class as a whole.
“They’ll be competing soon,” DiVirgilio said.
And hopefully making history of their own.