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Hempfield lacrosse standout headed to RMU

| Thursday, June 12, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Amanda Gennaro defends against Latrobe's Naomi Schwaiger during their girls lacrosse game at Rossi Field on April 15, 2014, in Latrobe. Hempfield defeated Latrobe, 15-9.

Many high school athletes dream about playing their sport of choice at the highest level in college.

While in the infant stages of learning her craft three seasons ago, Hempfield's Amanda Gennaro could only imagine playing lacrosse at the Division I level.

Now, Gennaro's dream has become reality. In the fall, Gennaro will be attending Robert Morris as a preferred walk-on for coach Katy Phillips.

The defender has come a long way for Hempfield since first setting foot on the lacrosse field during her sophomore season.

With year-round training, Gennaro, who had four goals and 15 interceptions this season, blossomed from someone who struggled with the routine aspects of the game, such as how to receive a lacrosse ball, to a defensive cornerstone for the Spartans.

“She didn't know how to catch or pass at all when she first started. Her body defense was great. Her field play was great, and her communication was great,” Hempfield coach Becky Bragan said. “She just really had to work on stick skills. As soon as she got that, she trusted herself a lot more. She spent the first year learning everything and gaining confidence.”

Gennaro, a converted soccer player, is aware her collegiate competition likely will have many more years of experience, but she plans to continue doing what got her to this point.

“It's very intimidating. I honestly have been working so hard to get to this point, and if I keep working, I will be perfectly fine,” said Gennaro, who will be working at the Pittsburgh Premier Lacrosse Club as a CIT.

Gennaro's decision to play for Robert Morris wasn't easy. She fielded many offers from Division II colleges that offered plenty of financial aid.

But, when Gennaro, who will major in nursing, visited Robert Morris, she couldn't resist the temptation of what the university had to offer.

“I fell in love with the campus. It's really nice,” Gennaro said. “I told my father if it wasn't for lacrosse, I would come to the school anyway. Since I loved the school so much, I went ahead and decided to play lacrosse.”

Bragan said defense was one of the toughest positions Gennaro could have tried to learn.

“I feel like defense is one of the toughest because you have to have great body position and get in front of a girl,” Bragan said. “You have to make the clean check and not make the foul. You need to also communicate to make sure a girl is not left wide open.”

Gennaro, who was an outspoken leader at Hempfield, understands what her role will be at Robert Morris, but she doesn't think it will take her long to break out of her shell and become a vocal leader for the Colonials.

“I feel like you have to get it within yourself. If you see something on the field you can't be afraid to say something. Girls will respect that, look up to you and look for your help,” Gennaro said.

“Not going to lie, I eventually will. But coming in as a freshman, you're going to be intimidated of the big girls. I'm hoping I will eventually at some point but I need to just come out of my shell.”

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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