Hopkins, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Syracuse.

Growing up, the big names of lacrosse were very familiar to me as I was raised in upstate New York as a diehard Syracuse fan. Traveling to most of the home men’s lacrosse games, I found myself hoping that I could be on that same field in the future.

When recruitment started during my freshman year of high school, I was blessed to receive letters from some of those same schools I had seen growing up. Only now, it was a bit more real, as I would have the opportunity to play for one of these storied programs, instead of watching from the stands.

Being a fan of Syracuse my whole life, I always thought that’s where I would end up. But as recruitment moved along, I became more interested in the University of Maryland.

Maryland was one of the first schools to offer me and I respected what the program had done in the past. They were also one of the top teams in the country at the time, so it seemed like the right spot to be.

After a discussion with my family, I called their coaches and committed to being a Terrapin.

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When making the transition to college, I tried to just focus on Lacrosse and school. College Park being a completely different environment than where I had grown up, it was a little difficult to get acclimated. Spending most of my time with lacrosse, I just tried to get to work on the field and in the weight room.

Although it wasn’t a completely smooth transition, we are lucky in lacrosse, as our season doesn’t actually start until the spring. After a tough fall ball, I started to feel like I was playing college level lacrosse. My role on the team wasn’t clearly defined, but I knew I would get a shot to make an impact.

As the season progressed, so did my play. With every game, I was just looking for an opportunity to showcase my talent. From getting my first start against Virginia to playing one of my best games with my family watching at Syracuse, I was starting to show that I belonged.

Unfortunately, things weren’t as easy off the field. I still wasn’t acclimated to the surrounding town and I didn’t quite feel like Maryland was the right fit for me. 

As the season ended, I started to have thoughts that I might need to make a change.

I took my concerns to the coaches and my family, and after thinking it over, I decided it was best for me to leave the program.

I loved the coaches and respected the program, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I wanted to be at a program where both the university and the team fit me perfectly. So I started my recruitment all over again.

This time, I knew what I was looking for. Looking past just the esteem of the program, I analyzed the team’s style of play, the size of the university, and the towns that these universities were in.

Another difference in my second recruitment process was that I had a familiar voice in my ear. That voice was a University of Denver midfielder who happened to be my older brother.

Although he was persuasive, I still wanted to visit the school myself. I had heard great things, but I did not want to make the same mistake again. But as I took my visit and looked at the program, Denver was even better than described. It became the perfect fit.

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Everything from the school to the surrounding area fit me well, including the style of play that would allow me to improve my game. After a final discussion with my family, I chose DU to continue my career.

Since joining the team, I can honestly say that it was one of the best decisions of my life.

When I first arrived, I didn’t know how the team would react to a transfer. But right away, the players and coaches treated me as their own. From including me in social activities to showing me around town, I immediately felt like part of the family, which drove me to help the team succeed.

Not only this, but I finally had the opportunity to feel like a part of the surrounding community again.

With the help of my coaches, I found youth lacrosse camps that I could volunteer at in Denver and give back to the community. Giving back is something my parents taught me from a very young age, and it helped immensely with my acclimation to Denver.

It’s hard to feel homesick when you have the chance to put a smile on so many young faces with lacrosse.

And on the field, my game improved immensely. With the opportunity to play with some of the top talents in the country, our team molded together and played as one unit. As our season wrapped up and we got into the tournament, I started to realize we would have a chance at the National Championship.

I just didn’t know that chance would be against my former team, the University of Maryland.

Although it was a little uncomfortable, I had every confidence in our team and was going to battle with them. After a hard fought game, we came out as the National Champions, solidifying my decision to transfer.

Now after two successful years which have included broken records, the opportunity to play with family, and a national championship, I just want to finish off my career with a National Championship. For a program that has given me so much and that accepted immediately, there is no better goal that I can think of.

Looking back on my career, I don’t have many regrets, as it is hard to know what you really want as a teenager. I would just say that when choosing a University, the decision is more than where the program has been in the past. Closely look at the team, the academics of the university, and the surrounding town, and hopefully, you will find the perfect fit for you.

For me, that fit was the University of Denver.

Connor Cannizzaro | Contributor