March 10, 2014

Making Sense: DiSalvo Now Washington's First Fiddle

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Once thought to be a starter as a freshman, Ted DiSalvo had to sit his first two seasons. In his second season as the main guy for Washington College, DiSalvo has the Shoremen looking like the team to beat in the Centennial. (Caitie Hamilton)

It was a choice between two goalies, and Ted DiSalvo came in second.

Sitting in the office of Jeff Shirk, who had taken over the Washington College program six months earlier, DiSalvo was given the news that he wasn't going to be the guy in between the pipes for the Shoremen in 2011.

He wasn't pleased about the decision.

Just a couple of months earlier, in the fall of 2010, DiSalvo was the pick as Washington attempted to rebound from a 4-10 campaign the previous spring. Although he showed up at 6-foot-1 and 145 pounds out of a Florida public school program, DiSalvo had proven himself as the top netminder during fall ball. The dynamic changed, however. Between semesters, Pete Stewart, who had taken the first semester off of his junior year, decided to return to the fold.

Stewart had earned some quality time during his sophomore year in '10, starting four games, and his return allowed Shirk to reopen the fight for the starting goalie spot.

"I had a great fall my freshman year, I thought," DiSalvo said. "Then Pete came back. I played in one of the preseason games and Pete played in the second one. I thought the battle was pretty even, and then I remember Coach Shirk telling me that the week before the first game that they decided to go with the guy who started before."

DiSalvo was the second fiddle once again.

* * *

Spanish River High School is located in the suburbs of Boca Raton and it, like many public schools in Florida, has a lacrosse team. Unlike most programs, Spanish River has one of the biggest lacrosse factories in the state located a mile up the same road. While DiSalvo was starting four year in the cage for Spanish River, his northerly neighbor, St. Andrew's Prep, was sending players all over the country and to colleges and universities at every division.

Not having the same pedigree, DiSalvo struggled to get noticed.

"It was kind of a long process for me getting recruited because I was a public school goalie from Florida, and Florida hadn't really opened the floodgates yet," DiSalvo said. "A lot of teams were getting nervous about recruiting a goalie from South Florida who really didn't play anybody. I heard it a lot from different schools: 'You have talent, but we're only taking one goalie in this class and we aren't going to take a risk, and this and that."

DiSalvo had already targeted Division III – and specifically the NESCAC and Centennial conferences – and Washington College was one of his last stops. He enjoyed his overnight stay on campus and found an odd connection with the Chester, Md., campus. "It was really different from what I grew up with, but it was a place I felt comfortable with the minute I stepped on campus," he said.

The good vibes didn't last long when DiSalvo had the rug pulled out from underneath him for the starting position with the Shoremen. But they quickly returned when he realized that Shirk's choice to go with Stewart wasn't personal.

"This is a first-year coach and he's got a whole new team and learning everybody, so he went with the known commodity," DiSalvo said about Shirk's plight. "Looking back on it, it was 100 percent the right decision and it helped me out."

Stewart was a key player, as well. Instead of eyeing the rookie as a rival, Stewart tried to foster DiSalvo's apprenticeship.

"Pete was the best mentor I could have," DiSalvo said. "Our lockers were next to each other and he was great. He knew that I was right there with him, but he didn't hate me or despise me for it. He pushed me harder than the coaching staff pushed me. It was a great relationship that I had with Pete and it was tough. I didn't like losing the job because I was a starter my whole high school career, but looking back on it, it helped."

"We anticipated him being the starter and when Pete came and beat him out it was, to be very honest with you, a little bit of a relief," Shirk said. "It took a lot of pressure off Teddy as a freshman and coming into a new situation and coming from Florida and not coming from one of the top schools like St. Andrew's or St. Thomas Aquinas. There were a lot of question marks whether he could make it, but he always believed in himself."

When Stewart graduated in 2012 as an All-American – and leading the Shoremen to their first NCAA appearance since '08 – the door once again opened for DiSalvo. This time there would be no question about whose job it was. With two years as a head coach, Shirk became more comfortable in his station and, as such, appreciated DiSalvo's journey a little more.

"It was just a matter of getting the confidence that it was his job," Shirk said.

"When it came time for the fall of junior year, everybody knew that I'm going to be the starter. I know that I'm going to be the starter and the coaching staff knows that I'm going to be the starter," DiSalvo said. "But it wasn't until I got into that first game of season against Goucher that I was able to comprehend what this journey was about to become."

The first go around last year resulted in a 13-5 record helped by DiSalvo's 57.6 save percentage and 8.98 goals against average. The Shoremen advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament before falling to eventual national champion Stevenson.

"The guys saw him at practice every day and the starting defensemen and short stick middies just rallied behind Teddy," Shirk said. "To the point where there was no question that he was our guy and that everyone had confidence in him. So I don't think he felt the weight of the world on his shoulders like some goalies do in their first year starting. But like any first-year goalie he had his moments, but fortunately, more good than bad."

It has continued this spring. Washington College is 4-0 and DiSalvo has played all but four minutes on the season. His numbers (7.62 GAA; 61.0 sv%) are of All-American caliber, and the training he has done with his coaches and strength staff have made him more than just a quick pair of hands.

With DiSalvo as the last line of defense, the Shoremen appear to be the favorites to win the Centennial Conference for the first time 2003.

* * *

DiSalvo doesn't play second fiddle anymore.

In the classroom, he has posted a 3.6 grade point average with a double-major in philosophy and political science. He has been accepted to all eight grad schools at which he has applied to get his Master's in philosophy, including St. Andrew's in Scotland. He is expected to hear any day now from Oxford in England, where he did a research project last year.

This past fall, Shirk brought the team in for a huddle after warm-ups and announced the captains. DiSalvo's was the last of the names called.

"We have four captains and he was up at top with the votes," Shirk said. "His teammates really respect him."

"That's definitely been the highlight of my college career so far, being named captain by my teammates," DiSalvo said. "That means a lot more to me than any other honor anyone could give me. Knowing that I was captain of this team is something that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life."

If the skinny kid from the public school in Florida continues in his current direction, there will many more memories to come.


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