Home is Where DeMola's Heart Is
|In the last game playing for his
home town team, Vito DeMola scored four goals and dished out two
assists, lifting Dowling to a thrilling, 11-10 victory over
© Bill Danielewski
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — In the middle of the game — the biggest game of Vito DeMola's life — he heard the voice.
"I have an 11-year-old brother and he's in the stands saying, 'Go Vito!' And I hear his voice over all the others," said DeMola. "There are 500 people right there and I hear his voice. That's what keeps you going. There's no better feeling."
Winning a national championship, which DeMola did after he led Dowling to a 11-10 victory over Limestone on Sunday with four goals and two assists, is pretty close. But if DeMola couldn't hear his brother, whom he coaches in his off time, or have his family at all of his home games, the win probably wouldn't mean quite as much.
The reason DeMola was playing for the Golden Lions, and won Most Outstanding Player honors, is because of his family. DeMola started his career at Hartwick, where he was named the Empire 8 Rookie of the Year in 2008, but the draw of home was too strong.
He transferred to Dowling the next season, in which he redshirted, and then helped build the Lions program up to its current heights.
"I guess you could say I got the total experience," said Demola, who hails from Holtsville, N.Y. "I left Long Island and had some fun. Then I got to come home and do the family thing and play some of the best lacrosse you possibly could."
"Vito wanted to be able to go to dinner on Sundays and see his brother on the weekend and coach lacrosse," said Dowling coach Tim Boyle. "That was a big piece of the puzzle."
He was the biggest piece for the Lions as he charged Dowling to rally from a 7-6 halftime deficit by scoring three of his four goals and dishing out both of his helpers in the second half. Most of his damage was done on moves from behind the cage.
"We were concerned about him rolling back and getting to his left hand," said Limestone coach J.B. Clarke. "Two of those shots he couldn't put in a better place. It was a magical day for the young man."
"If he's on, it's hard to stop because that shot is coming right out of the defender," added Boyle.
The finish was a perfect end to an imperfect season for DeMola.
"Those are shots a year ago and all through high school I would have been hitting on a regular basis, but I had a harder time this year because I was keyed up a little more," DeMola said. "I had a slump in the beginning of the year, but today I knew that I had 60 minutes left in my career and there was no reason not try something.
"I just told myself, 'Why hold anything back? Let’s do it.' I wasn’t going to save anything. I wasn’t going to have any what-ifs. No shoulda, coulda, woulda."
Boyle knew his top player was struggling and just had to convince him that the Lions didn't need to be a one-man show.
"I wouldn't call it a slump. Vito just felt pressure to carry the team," Boyle said. "Because he's that type of kid, he wanted to be the guy, and not because he wanted to get points. He was trying to do what he could for the team. We got him out of that and told him we have a lot of guys on this team, and everyday it was somebody different. He wanted to win badly, and today was his day to show it."
In a surprisingly short time after the final whistle blew on Dowling's victory, the members of the team raced over to the sidelines where the parents, classmates and alums were congregated. Sons hugged mothers and fathers, as the players thanked the extended Lions family that had been there the whole way.
"Last week we were in Erie, Pa., which is almost in the middle of nowhere, and we made it a home game," DeMola said. "We must have had 200 fans covered in blue paint, screaming and yelling. Mercyhurst had to be shocked by the way we traveled. I was shocked."
As he stood outside the Dowling locker room with an NCAA National Champion hat on, he wasn't in shock, but Demola looked a little dazed. His college career was over and the members of his lacrosse family will move in and out of his life, but bringing a title to Dowling will always be easy to remember for DeMola.
"Nothing is better than bringing it back to Long Island because the school is 10 minutes away from my house," he said. "I’ll be visiting my trophy probably once a week. Give it a little kiss. Polish it."