For an unrecruited freshman trying to walk on to a college lacrosse team that had just posted its best season in almost 10 years, Caite Irvine was surprisingly calm.
It was the fall of 2007 and Trinity College had just hired a new head coach, Kate Livesay , who piloted the Bantams to a 12-5 record one year after winning just five games.
But the only action Livesay had seen of Irvine in high school was at a field hockey game in which she played left back, perhaps the position where someone is least likely to shine.
Here was Livesay’s initial scouting report: “We said ‘OK, she can avoid tripping over herself when she runs.’ ”
In other words, if Irvine was a racehorse and Trinity was Churchill Downs, the morning line would’ve been somewhere around 99:1.
This spring, the 5-foot-4 Westwood native was a key cog in Trinity’s drive to the NCAA Division 3 championship.
At least the coach can laugh about it now. For starters, she didn’t even realize Irvine was from Westwood. Nor did she understand what it meant in the world of women’s lacrosse to have that town stamped on your resume.
“OK, this is where I’m going to admit some ignorance,” Livesay said. “That was my first recruiting class as a head coach. I didn’t really get the whole Westwood thing.”
Livesay eventually discovered that Irvine had speed and agility. And that together, the skill set would be a perfect fit for a backup role-player. A defensive midfielder perhaps. “Yeah, that would be her position,” Livesay thought back in the spring of ’08.
Three weeks went by and word had finally made its way to the head coach: Irvine was actually an attacker. She played three years at Westwood High before transferring to Hotchkiss (a boarding school in Connecticut), where she was an All-American and led her squad to a state championship.
Embarrassed, Livesay finally tried Irvine on offense, and — abracadabra — the coach had herself a natural finisher. Irvine ended the 2008 season second on the team in goals. She describes herself as lacking incredible stick skills or a powerful shot, though she has the ability to throw her defender off balance with just two steps.
“If you’re athletic and you’re quick,” she said, “you’re going to beat a lot of defenders.”
Irvine went on to have four prolific seasons at Trinity, earning All-NESCAC honors in ’08, ’09, ’10, and ’12 (she took 2011 off to spend time in Chile with the National Outdoor Leadership School). She finished 2012 hoisting a national championship trophy while tied for second on the team in goals with 46.
“I think coach [Livesay] was definitely surprised, but happy,” Irvine said of her breakout in ’08 and successful four-year career. “She was really supportive. I think as a freshman I was really fortunate I got a chance to play and capitalize on those opportunities. It could’ve been easy to be nervous, but I just didn’t want to waste my chance.”
Irvine, who also played varsity field hockey at Trinity, has been hired to be an assistant field hockey and lacrosse coach at Babson College, where she’ll be reunited with head coach Michelle Smith, a 2008 Trinity grad.
This time, Livesay has a much deeper scouting report on Irvine’s future.
“I think she just has that love of the game that not every player has,” she said. “A lot of people are good at lacrosse and being part of a team. But the way she loves the game is what will make her a great coach.”
Eldridge logs big innings
Bridgewater-Raynham alum Brittany Eldridge finished off her senior season on the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth softball team having pitched 132⅔ of the team’s 241 innings.
To describe her as workhorse might be an understatement.
She often pitched both games of double-headers three times a week.
When she wasn’t pitching she was playing first base, where she was second on the team with a .392 slugging percentage. And she did it all while finishing her coursework in business and working a job as a supervisor at CVS.
“You do what you can to pay the bills,” she said.
Eldridge has since started a job as a materials coordinator at Electrochem, but she said she wouldn’t be where she is now without the loving care of her parents, Mari and Lloyd , who hardly ever missed her games.
Assistant receives top honors
Assistant coaches might rank among the most unsung heroes in college sports, but after finishing his 13th year in the Brandeis University dugout, Walpole High grad Brian Lambert will be honored with the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association’s Kevin Burr Assistant Coach Award on Monday, prior to the NEIBA All-Star game at LeLacheur Park in Lowell.
Lambert (Brandeis, ’98) is the third base and outfield coach at his alma mater, also responsible for recruiting under coach Pete Varney .
“My favorite part is watching kids you recruited and taught different things — watching them develop,” said Lambert, who was a fleet-footed center fielder, first at Walpole and then at Brandeis.
“My wife and I aren’t going to have kids, so it’s the closest I’ll ever get to being a parent. It’s amazing watching these kids grow up, not only as baseball players, but also as men.” . . . BC High grad Scott Warwick (Quincy), who compiled a 3-4 mark with a 2.60 ERA as a senior at Fairfield, is an alternate for the all-star game.Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at email@example.com.