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Bunting sisters of Wellesley continue family lacrosse legacy

Abby Bunting with her grandfather, Lloyd Bunting Jr., a member of the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

Abby Bunting with her grandfather, Lloyd Bunting Jr., a member of the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

Their 86-year-old grandfather, Lloyd Bunting Jr., was a four-time All-American at Johns Hopkins University, and was inducted to the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1975.

Their father, Lloyd III, taught Caroline and Abby Bunting the fundamentals of the sport he had played at Brown University, using the front yard of their Wellesley home as a practice field. He would referee their one-on-one battles, and challenge each to complete as many passes as possible to him in a one-minute drill.

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Since then, their lacrosse net has been given to neighbors, and their beloved golden retriever, Cinnamon, who after chasing down a loose ball was reluctant to give it up, has passed on. The family’s long and accomplished connection to the sport, however, thrives.

This spring, Caroline is a senior lacrosse captain at the University of Pennsylvania, a perennial Ivy League power and NCAA tournament contender that started the week at 7-4 overall (5-0 Ivy). Caroline will take on her sister’s team, Brown (9-4, 2-3), at noon Saturday in Providence.

“It’s a proud moment for us and for our family,’’ said Caroline, who plays the attack position and was Penn’s third leading scorer with 13 goals and 7 assists.

Abby, a sophomore midfielder and her team’s second leading scorer, is enjoying a breakout season with 28 goals and 4 assists.

Caroline, who had three goals last Friday when the Quakers handed Dartmouth its first league loss, was named Ivy League co-Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.

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Abby had a pair of unassisted goals Sunday in a losing (15-12) effort at Boston College.

Both were lacrosse All-Americans and three-sport athletes at Wellesley High, where, as lacrosse teammates for two seasons, they helped the Raiders advance to the South sectional finals.

The sisters share personal observations of common opponents and their own performances, and feed emotionally off each other.

They also shared a laugh last year when Abby drew a yellow card during Brown’s loss at Penn — after checking Caroline.

“She says she didn’t deserve it, and our family still gives her some grief. The game is definitely in our blood,’’ said Caroline, who recalled going to the store with her dad as a youngster to pick out a lacrosse stick.

Caroline visited her grandfather in December in Baltimore and viewed his All-America plaques at Johns Hopkins. “He gives us his opinion about the game,’’ she said, “and he was able to get to our home game last year against Brown, and to our NCAA game at Loyola.’’

Abby said it feels “real cool’’ to have an icon of the sport as a grandfather.

“He’s just the greatest guy and when he came to my high school games I definitely knew he was there by the way he yelled from the sideline,’’ she said. “I have that same aggressiveness on the field.’’

The elder Bunting, who is also a member of the Johns Hopkins and Maryland Sports Halls of Fame, was a starter in the 1944 Maryland high school all-star game, and played on four national championship teams in college, and in three North-South collegiate all-star games.

“My father was all about fair play and leaving everything he had on the field, and if you did that, you had nothing to be ashamed of,’’ said Lloyd III, who was also a starting offensive lineman on some very good Brown football teams in the late 1970s and early ’80s. “He infused that in me, and we’re so pleased that our girls inherited that.’’

Penn head coach Karin Brower Corbett and Brown counterpart Keely McDonald admire the Bunting family legacy.

“Abby has an edge to her game that we look for in every player,’’ said McDonald, “and her family history plays a huge part in that. You can see it in the way she carries herself and in her natural instinct to make decisions on the field.’’

Corbett said Caroline brought good stick skills to her program, and has worked tirelessly to improve her all-around game and evolve as a team leader.

“She’s a more confident player with great field presence; she creates opportunities for her teammates to succeed, and she comes from a tremendous family of athletes,’’ Corbett said.

Lloyd III coached his daughters in the Wellesley youth lacrosse program. His wife, Cathy, did likewise in soccer, a sport she played in high school. Her father, Mike Lazor, was a standout basketball player at Williams College in the 1950s.

The Buntings keep a spread sheet with game dates and sites posted on the refrigerator.

Last weekend, they drove to Philadelphia for Penn’s 8-7 win over Dartmouth, while watching some of Brown’s 9-7 loss at Cornell via the Internet, and returned home to catch the Brown-BC game.

“If there’s a conflict, we try to split up to make sure we see each of our daughters,’’ said their dad, who noted that when Penn and Brown square off, the family entourage brings hats representing both teams.

“Before Abby went to Brown, we all rooted for Penn, and after Caroline graduates, we’ll all root for Brown,’’ he said. “We know that someone will win and someone will lose.”

“But years later you realize it’s the person you become and the teammates who remain friends for life that is most important.’’

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.

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