It’s hard to find Liz Bruno in idle mode. She has to be playing something.
Growing up in Andover, it was soccer, lacrosse, and ice hockey. There was no hockey team when she was in fifth grade, so she played on the boys’ team.
In seventh grade, lacrosse was new to her. “My brother Mike played lacrosse at Brooks School,’’ she said. “I went to his games.’’
She decided to try out for lacrosse in middle school.
“At first it was kind of confusing, but when everything started connecting, I couldn’t stop playing,’’ said Bruno, who followed her brother to Brooks, in North Andover.
As a freshman and sophomore, Bruno played so well that visions of a career at a Division 1 program were not far-fetched. She continued to play hockey and soccer too. Then everything changed in the fall of her junior year, when Bruno blew out her knee in the first scrimmage of the soccer season.
“I went up for a header,’’ she recalled. “No one was around me. When I landed my left knee was planted the wrong way. I knew something was wrong. I got taken off in an ambulance.’’ Her mother, Kirstan, was with her. “I kept saying ‘Mom, I hope I’m OK for lacrosse.’ ’’
She wasn’t. A torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus resulted in two surgeries, a month apart, and put an end to athletics her junior year.
The inactivity, besides the rehab, tested Bruno’s patience. “It was hard. I was used to playing three sports,’’ she said.
The timing of the injury could not have been worse. College recruiters usually focus in on an athlete’s junior year. Bruno was frustrated.
At camps and summer leagues, she wasn’t close to 100 percent. “I was physically unable to play at my full potential,’’ she said.
Bruno, however, has since realized her potential at Trinity, and in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC). She is a three-time lacrosse Division 3 All-American (a first-team selection the last two seasons).
“I think she could have played at a Division 1 school,’’ said Trinity coach Kate Livesay, who believes Bruno is on her way to another All-American selection.
“Four years in a row would be unbelievable,’’ she said.
A midfielder and cocaptain, Bruno (13 goals, 12 assists) has led the Bantams to an 11-0 record and No. 3 ranking nationally. She recently garnered Player of the Week honors in the conference.
A Middlebury graduate, Livesay is in her sixth year at Trinity. Since Bruno had missed her junior season at Brooks, she hadn’t seen her play. But Bruno played all three sports at Brooks as a senior, wearing a heavy brace. “It was clunky, but once I started playing I didn’t think about it.’’ It did take something away from her speed.
Livesay had two players, Christy Bradley and Carly Cameron, who had played lacrosse with Bruno for two years at Brooks. They saw her when she was healthy.
“They kept saying ‘Coach, you should look at her. Liz Bruno is so good,’ ’’ said Livesay.
Livesay said Bruno was “tough to evaluate in her freshman year,’’ citing the knee injury.
“But she made a big impact starting as a defender. She was amazing. Her athleticism was a notch above everyone else in the conference. She’s a competitor to the core. She brings a feistiness to the team.’’
Bruno warmed up to her new surroundings quickly. “I went to captain’s practice, which all the freshmen do,’’ she said. “I had to adjust to playing with new teammates, but they were very welcoming. They made it easy for me.
“I played every game that year, something I didn’t expect. It was nice to know I was contributing.’’
In her sophomore season, Livesay moved the 5-foot-9 Bruno to midfield.
“She was so fast and strong,’’ said the coach. “She had a hard shot, and the ability to score. Liz scored 15 goals. She was chipping in. She wasn’t the fuel of our offense, but she was finding her way.’’ Bruno forced 51 turnovers.
“She’s amazing at causing turnovers.’’ said Livesay. “She’s usually in the top 10 in the country.’’
Last season she scored 17 goals and caused 43 turnovers. “She started taking the draws for us,’’ said Livesay. “It helped us win possessions.’’
On Saturday, Bruno had a goal and two assists in a 13-9 win over Middlebury in a battle of unbeatens.
Bruno had planned to attend Bowdoin, but it didn’t work out. Livesay didn’t want to rush her into a decision. “She told me, ‘Take all the time you need. No pressure. We’d be happy to have you here,’ ’’ said Bruno.
Off the field, Livesay describes her star player as “a little shy. Quiet. She’s a great kid. Loyal to her teammates.’’
During games, Bruno is the leader. “Some of the players thought they were playing hard,’’ said the coach. “That was before they played with Liz.’’
Bruno plans on earning a master’s in education with visions of being a teacher/coach down the road.
As for the knee injury, “Everything happens for a reason,’’ said Bruno. “I’m so glad to be at Trinity. I don’t think I could be as happy at a Division 1 school.’’Lenny Megliola can be reached at email@example.com.