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Triple play: Auburn Riverside's Lucchesis will all attend University of Tampa
By Mike McQuaid
For the Auburn Reporter
For high school student-athletes, the opportunity to continue with their sport at the NCAA level is a rarity – reserved for the hardest working, most talented of the bunch.
Even rarer is the opportunity to join a brother or sister at the same college.
But that scenario is playing out for Auburn Riverside High School seniors Michael and Joey Lucchesi. Both signed National Letters of Intent to play lacrosse at NCAA Division II University of Tampa.
Even more remarkable is that an older sibling, sister Megan, is also a lacrosse player at ARHS.
"It's an honor to be welcomed into the University of Tampa family," said Joey, the youngest of the trio from Buckley, a suburban community a few miles southeast of Tacoma. "Tampa is a great place to thrive as people and lacrosse players. We're grateful for that opportunity."
Recruited by Tampa assistant Chris Burdick, who once guided Providence College to nine trips to the MAAC lacrosse tournament — including three titles in 14 years at the Friars' helm before coming over to the newly-formed Tampa program — the Lucchesis will get the chance not only to stay close but also to help the now three-year-old program compete for its first championship.
Playing for head coach Rory Whipple, Michael and Joey are set to join a Tampa squad that has a great start, marked by back-to-back trips to the Deep South Conference lacrosse tournament and capped by an 11-6-0 record and title game appearance last spring.
And they'll be right at home, joining prep teammate and 2013 White River High School graduate Mikey O'Connor, who co-captained their Auburn Riverside squad last spring.
Playing with O'Connor and employing many of the offensive schemes they'd learned in the recruiting process, the Lucchesis thrived, helping Auburn Riverside finish first in the Division I South Sound Conference last spring before falling by a single goal to Bainbridge High School in the state quarterfinals.
The Lucchesi brothers – both All-State selections in lacrosse with Michael's 58 points (13 goals, 45 assists) and 47 ground balls earning second team honors at attack, and Joey's 34 points (23 goals, 11 attempts) and 24 ground balls earning honorable mention last spring – bulked up their athletic resumes by helping Auburn Riverside football to a share of the SPSL 4A title last fall.
Combined with GPAs hovering just below a perfect 4.0 and a highlight reel dominated by Lucchesi-to-Lucchesi feeds for goals, the fit was a natural for Tampa.
"They really liked it," said Michael. "Coach Whipple contacted both of us and told us he liked the connection. Obviously, being as close as we are off the field plays a big role."
That closeness was also a deciding factor for Megan, who also received an offer from the Spartans women's squad after helping her lacrosse team to a third-place finish in Nisqually Conference play last spring.
For the senior, who has danced since she was 3 years old and is passionate about theater, Megan is taking a wait-and-see approach to collegiate lacrosse. Instead, she plans to focus on theater during her senior year in high school and on finding a path to veterinary school at Tampa.
"I had an amazing opportunity to be asked to play at Tampa," said Megan, who went through the recruiting process with Tampa women's coach Kelly Gallagher alongside her brothers but opted to explore new horizons once in Florida.
"Lacrosse is my passion, but a lot of people don't know I've danced for 12 years – ballet, jazz, musical theater," Megan said. "Mom signed me up for everything.
"You express yourself on the lacrosse field, but you express yourself in a different way in dance," she added.
All of that, coupled with the opportunity to go to school with her brothers, made the trip to Tampa too good to pass up.
"I'll be able to make my own life but be with my brothers - my best friends," she said.
For Michael and Joey, it's good 'ole sibling rivalry that helped them make their way to collegiate lacrosse, where 53 graduates of Washington state high schools received bids to play what became the fastest-growing NCAA sport during the 2012-13 academic year.
"Since the eighth grade our coach challenged us to compete with each other. He encouraged us to keep track of stats for bragging rights," Joey said.
And keep track they have.
Beginning as kids playing for the Lake Tapps Lacrosse Club, the two made up backyard games, taking five shots on each other from just 12 yards out to perfect their reaction time.
"You always had to win by two," Michael said. "We'd play for hours on end. On and on for bragging rights, and then we'd move on to the next game."
The endless gamesmanship shows in their high school stats.
Michael, who plays the attack position, is amassing goals as quickly as his brother can pass him the ball.
Through his junior season he has 147 points (56 goals, 91 assists).
And Joey — who as a midfielder is tasked with moving the play quickly up field but isn't counted on to provide a lot of scoring punch — isn't far behind with 95 points. In fact, he has an edge in goals with 64.
Following their official visit to Tampa in September, the Lucchesi brothers immediately felt at home with the Spartans offensive scheme.
"I can see us working well together. We already know a lot of their systems," Michael said. "We'll have a leg up going into our freshman year."
For more information on high school lacrosse in Washington state, visit www.WashingtonHSLAX.com.