Curry College senior lacrosse captain Andrew Navoni never met his grandfather, Andy, the former athletic director at the Rivers School in Weston.
“But knowing of him and what people have told me about his character and integrity meant a lot to me,’’ said Navoni, a 2009 Rivers grad from Natick whose solid two-way play in the midfield helped propel Curry to a 5-0 start this season.
“I felt I had a family name to live up to,’’ said Navoni, whose father, James, teaches mathematics and is an assistant athletic director at Rivers. “But my dad said I also had a name to make for myself.’’
Given more responsibility offensively by first-year coach Tim Murphy this season, Navoni has responded with several clutch goals, including the game-winner in Curry’s 14-13 victory in overtime March 5 against Southern Maine.
He had six ground balls — plus two goals — in an 11-10 win over Mount Ida; 8 ground balls and 4 caused turnovers when the Colonels topped Manhattanville; and the first tally in a 7-5 victory against Norwich last Sunday. His 12 ground balls against Southern Maine were a season high.
Murphy appreciates Navoni’s skill set and athleticism.
“He’s developed offensively in summer select lacrosse, and he’s unbelievable in transition,’’ said Murphy.
The NCAA wanted to speed up the game this season and part of that was taking out the sideline horn — which used to allow substitution of offensive and defensive units — so Navoni rarely comes off the field.
“He runs with our first-line offensive midfield and we also use him late in games on the defensive end because he’s a great shutdown cover guy, something he excelled at with Rivers and his first three years at Curry,’’ Murphy said.
Russ Halloran, a coach at Rivers from 1968 to 1974 and now an assistant to James Navoni, has known all three generations of the family. He was Andy Navoni’s colleague, and coached James in JV basketball.
“Andy Navoni was the classiest gentleman I ever met in all my years in athletics, and he, his son, and his grandson were all cut from the same cloth — hard workers, believers in sportsmanship, and always with a sense of humility,’’ Halloran said.
Murphy agrees: “Andy is one of our hardest workers with a ton of character,’’ he said of the youngest of the clan, “and he’s volunteered for several community events.’’
Navoni, a student-teacher at an elementary school in Hyde Park, said lacrosse has always been his favorite sport.
“I love the fast pace and the physical contact and what the sport demands of you,’’ he said, “and most of all contributing to the team.’’
His grandfather, a graduate of Boston University and a Connecticut native, came to Rivers in 1950 when it was an all-boys school in Chestnut Hill. (Rivers moved its campus to Weston in 1959 and went coed in 1989.)
The elder Navoni, who also coached baseball, basketball, and football at Rivers, and was a respected basketball referee, died in 1976 and his name is perpetuated by two annual sportsmanship awards — one presented to an Independent School League basketball player, and the other to a Rivers baseball player who exemplify his qualities.
His son, who played basketball at Curry College (class of 1975), has also been honored at Rivers, where he has spent 37 years, with the establishment of the James A. Navoni Athletic Prize. It is awarded to a male athlete who contributes the most to the advancement of athletics at the school.
James Navoni received the award his senior year, when it was called the Athletic Prize.
He also has a daughter at Rivers; Jamie, a sophomore, plays varsity field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse, upholding the family’s athletic tradition.
A three-sport athlete at Rivers, James Navoni returned there a month after his father’s passing and has never left.
“My father was a stickler for sportsmanship and fair play, and believed everybody should have a chance to participate, especially the younger kids,’’ recalled Navoni, who coached Andrew in the Natick youth lacrosse and basketball programs and in three sports at Rivers, and Jamie with the Natick travel basketball team.
“Being able to work and coach at Rivers and watch our son and daughter grow up there has been a blessing,’’ he said. James Navoni’s brother, Tom, and sisters Anne and Louise were also standout athletes.
His son, the recipient of the school’s Henry Wilder Foote Award for academic and social growth and a member its 2009 ISL cochampionship lacrosse team, said he is proud of his family’s ties to Rivers.
“My dad understood the academic challenges at Rivers and was always there to help, and there wasn’t a day that went by without Russ Halloran reminding me of what a genuine person my grandfather was, and what he meant to the school and the ISL,’’ he said.
Halloran, a great athlete at Newton High and a former director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said that when he walks past the bronze plaque of Andy Navoni outside the AD’s office , “I always rub it for good luck, because of how I felt about him.’’
“My grandfather would have been proud of how hard I’ve worked on the field and in the classroom,’’ said Andrew, “and that makes being a team captain for the first time even more special.’’