Nov. 11, 2014
CHARLOTTESVILLE — On Senior Night for the UVa women’s soccer team, head coach Steve Swanson pulled aside one of the players who had been honored about an hour earlier at Klöckner Stadium.
“At halftime, Steve was like, `You need to be more selfish. You need to shoot,’ ” UVa midfielder Danielle Colaprico recalled.
She’d heard that before. During her career at Red Bank Catholic High in her native New Jersey, Colaprico totaled 70 goals and 30 assists, but she rarely faced elite competition. In the powerful Players Development Academy club program, Colaprico said, her “coach always told me the same thing that Steve tells me all the time, that I need to be more selfish and shoot more.”
She shrugged. “I don’t know what it is. I tend to pass it off to other people or look to get crosses off for other people to finish.”
Those skills have served her well as a Cavalier. As she heads into her fourth and final NCAA tournament, Colaprico has 40 career assists. Only former star Lauren Alwine, with 42, has had more at Virginia.
Colaprico’s 15 assists this fall are a single-season school record, and she’s also scored a career-high six goals. One of those goals came Nov. 1 in the second half of UVa’s 6-1 rout of Pittsburgh on Senior Night.
“Steve was right,” Colaprico said, smiling.
Swanson said: “The thing about Danielle is, she’s very capable of scoring in many different ways. She’s a good header of the ball. She’s got a great strike with her right and left foot. She can take players on 1v1, and she can serve a great ball, which is evident by all the assists she’s had. It’s just trying to get her aware of certain situations where because of her athleticism, because of her change of pace, and because of her ability to strike with either foot, that’s probably the best option for us to score.
“I think in the past she used to defer, but now the onus is much more on her, and she’s taking more responsibility in those situations, which is what we want, because she’s so good.”
The Wahoos, who advanced to the College Cup in 2013, were awarded one of the four No. 2 seeds in this year’s NCAA tournament, whose 64-team field was announced Monday afternoon. At 7 p.m. Friday, UVa (18-2) hosts High Point (12-4-4), the Big South champion, at Klöckner.
The No. 1 seed in UVa’s bracket is UCLA. The Bruins ousted the `Hoos in the College Cup semifinals last year and went on to capture the NCAA title.
“I think our goal is always to win a national championship here,” Swanson said. “But you have to be careful that you don’t look at the big picture. I think you can spend a lot of energy doing that, and it really doesn’t matter. What matters is what’s in front of you, and my experience says, and I think our players know this, that you just have to focus on this game Friday.”
Colaprico, who grew up in Freehold, N.J., also the hometown of one Bruce Springsteen, is the Cavaliers’ second-leading scorer with 27 points, behind junior forward Makenzy Doniak (36 points). This season is the first in which the ACC named a midfielder of the year, and the inaugural award went to Colaprico. She was unaware it even existed.
“When Steve told me I was kind of shocked,” Colaprico said. “I didn’t expect it at all. It was a great honor and everything, but it definitely just reflects how well our team has done all year.”
As a junior, the 5-3 Colaprico was named to the All-America third team. At times during her career, though, her contributions have been overshadowed by those of Doniak and senior midfielder Morgan Brian, who already has 14 caps with the U.S. national team. That’s never been a concern for Colaprico.
“I’m obviously happy for them. It’s just awesome having them on our team and having the ability to play with them,” she said. “Honestly, I wouldn’t know what I would do without them on the field, because they’re so much fun to play with and they make the game so amazing.”
Brian and Colaprico were still in high school when they first met, at a training camp for the United States’ under-17 team in Florida. Both had committed to Virginia by then.
Her appreciation for Colaprico’s game has grown over the years, Brian said Monday night.
“I think that a lot of people would say that when you watch her play, sometimes you don’t notice her the first time,” Brian said. “She’s not the flashiest. But when you play with her for a really long time, you start to notice things that are really valuable within a team, and I think over the years people are starting to realize what she brings to this team.
“She has great vision and she’s really technical on the ball. She’s very unselfish, and I think that shows a lot with how many passes and assists she has in games.”
Brian missed eight games this fall because of her obligations with the national team. She rejoined the `Hoos for the regular-season finale against Pitt and then helped them blank North Carolina 2-0 in the ACC tournament semifinals Friday night. Two days later, Virginia lost 1-0 to Florida State in the championship game.
As disappointing as that defeat was, Colaprico said, “I think we’re focused now on the NCAA tournament, and we know that we have a really great shot at winning a national championship. I think that we learned from how we played in our last game, and we know that we gotta come out to play in every game now.”
During the NCAA tournament, Swanson will lean on his upperclassmen, a group that includes Colaprico, Brian, Doniak, junior defender Emily Sonnett, redshirt junior midfielder Kaili Torres and junior forward Brittany Ratcliffe.
“I think our leadership has been important all year, and I think at this point in time this is where you want your leaders to kind of establish themselves,” Swanson said. “We do have quite a new group, so to speak, there’s a lot of young faces in the room. I think just having those players that have been there before, and just having the experience of what they’ve experienced over their four or three years so far, is going to be helpful to us, and educational for the younger players.”
For veterans such as Colaprico, the abrupt ending to UVa’s postseason run last year hasn’t been forgotten.
“It was definitely disappointing losing in the Final Four,” she said. “It’s kind of motivation to realize that we’re a good enough team to win a national championship.”
The Cavaliers are 11-0 at Klöckner this season, and the earliest they would have to play a road game in the NCAAs would be the quarterfinals.
“We love being at home,” Colaprico said. “Klöckner is a great atmosphere, and it’s awesome playing in front of our fans.”
Had her parents had their way, Colaprico might have spent her college years playing home games in Washington, D.C. Her mother, Janet Pisani, a psychiatrist, and her father, James Colaprico, a lawyer, are Georgetown graduates, “so of course they wanted me to look there,” Danielle said.
Rather than become a Hoya, she committed to UVa as an 11th-grader. College has been a rewarding experience for her.
“At first when I came in, when I was in my first classes, I was like, `Wow, this is kind of hard,’ but you adjust and you realize what you have to do to do well in school here,” said Colaprico, who lives with teammates Julia Sroba and Alexis Shaffer. “And then the soccer part was difficult at first, because I wouldn’t say we were as close as a team as we are now.”
Since her first year, however, “I think the whole team has come together, and we have great chemistry off the field, which really helps us on the field,” Colaprico said.
A psychology major, Colaprico takes her studies seriously. She’s twice been named to the Capital One Academic All-District 3 women’s soccer team, and she’ll graduate in December, a semester ahead of schedule. She’s taking 18 credit hours this fall, a daunting load for an in-season athlete, but Colaprico has embraced the challenge.
“I always strive to do my best in school,” she said. “It’s not always all about soccer.”
Even so, she plans to keep playing for as long as she can. A member of the U.S. under-23 national team, Colaprico figures to be taken early in the next National Women’s Soccer League draft.
“She’s one of the best players in the country, without a doubt,” Swanson said. “If I was a professional coach, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick her in the first round. She’s that good.”
FAN INFORMATION: Tickets for UVa’s first-round game against High Point are $9 for reserved seats, $7 for adult general admission, and $5 for youth/student/senior citizen general admission.
Fans can purchase tickets online at VirginiaSports.com and by phone, through the Virginia Athletics Ticket Office, at 800-542-8821 or 434-924-8821. Tickets also will be available at the gate Friday, starting at 6 p.m.
Free parking will be available in the University Hall lot, the McCue lot and at the Emmet/Ivy Garage. The Virginia women’s basketball team hosts Ohio State at 7 p.m. Friday, so the John Paul Jones Arena lot and garage are reserved for women’s basketball permit holders.