Sarah DiFazio, a junior in Pinecrest Academy's girls’ lacrosse program, is the backbone of the team on the field. As a midfielder, her job is to not only contribute offensively, but to use her endurance, speed and smarts to quickly revert into defensive positions. It's a position that requires training, discipline and superb conditioning.
But DiFazio's role on the Lady Paladins' roster this season might have more to do with the intangibles, and her position on the team's family tree, if you will. The daughter of the team's head coach, Jillian DiFazio, Sarah is a vital organ on a team looking to develop out of its infant years.
Pinecrest is entering just its third season of girls’ lacrosse and just its second on varsity. Last year the Lady Paladins got off to a hot start, winning three games, before the more talented teams in the region sent them into a skid of losing 10 of 11 games.
It would have been easy to lose focus in the offseason—or maybe even throw away the idea of varsity lacrosse, all together—but DiFazio, who plays the sport year-round, is taking her final two years and the opportunity to play under her own mother in stride.
This year an influx of incoming freshman, including many two-sport athletes, will help the team, DiFazio believes.
She sees the challenge of improving Pinecrest's lacrosse team as one of the greater opportunities she's had yet.
“This year I think the expectations are that we come together as a team, because last season was tough, but we were a new team. We were just getting out there and playing, but this year will be different. We want to do well in region, get a winning record,” DiFazio said. “I think my role on the team is mostly to help those newer players, since I have been playing so long. Many of them have never even picked up a stick before, so hopefully I can help them out.”
Maybe the only thing better than a player's coach is a player-coach. DiFazio has been around lacrosse her entire life. Her mother played collegiality in Virginia, professionally in Australia and coached at North Springs and Chattahoochee before starting the program from scratch at Pinecrest.
Sarah began playing in the fourth grade, just because it was a sport she was familiar with. In the eighth grade she realized she wanted to take it seriously, and the sport returned the favor: she's been taken pretty seriously in other circuits.
For the last four seasons she has played on X-Team, a club program comprised of players from across the country and hosts tournaments, most recently in Colorado. But the traveling isn't for fun and games.
“In the fall we have some pretty big tournaments, which are big for recruiting. We also have training weekends, so you spend the entire weekend training. Even in the offseason, we have training packets that our coaches assign to us,” DiFazio said.
DiFazio's biggest coup came this summer, when she got selected to play on one of the two Georgia National Lacrosse Team rosters, taking a trip to Lehigh University in Pennslyvania to test her skills against teams from California, Colorado and Florida. Her team went 3-0.
DiFazio says her commitment to the sport has yielded some significant recruiting attention, but she prefers to keep the school names to herself.
She's still focused on the task ahead. On Monday, in the freezing, windy air that funneled down onto the Pinecrest practice field, DiFazio and a few teammates braved the conditions to practice a few drills after their standard practice concluded.
For her, every opportunity to get out on the field is worth taking.
“I think my goal in the sport is to keep playing it as long as I can, because it really is something I love,” DiFazio said. “That's the ultimate goal.”