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Senior captain Luigi Coppola is in the midst of his first year as the starting goalie for the North Haven boys’ lacrosse team this spring, helping the Indians net a record of 5-1 through the first two weeks of the season. (Photo courtesy of Luigi Coppola )
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Luigi Coppola started off his lacrosse career as a defender, but this year, he made the move to the net to become the starting goalie for the North Haven boys’ lacrosse team. Luigi, a senior captain, is excelling in that role for the Indians, who have jumped out to a 5-1 start with their new keeper.
In addition to calling for Luigi’s reinvention as a goalie, Head Coach Eric Bailey also named Luigi a team captain coming into this season. Luigi relishes the responsibility of leading North Haven on the field, and he feels that playing goalie gives him a leg up in that regard.
“I am a big part of the vocal leadership, especially when we’re on the field. Being able to see the whole field gives you a better view of the game. I know how to help kids in front of me, and I can lend some advice to people down the field, as well,” Luigi says. “Off the field, like any other captain, I try to show good grades in the classroom and be a good role model for the kids younger than me.”
Luigi’s interest in lacrosse was sparked after he and fellow senior teammate Zack Orth went to see a game when they were in elementary school. Luigi played defense for a number of years until Coach Bailey saw that he had the right skill set for tending the goal.
“One of my friends on the team, Zack Orth, his cousin played in middle school, and we went to watch one of his games. We thought it was pretty awesome,” says Luigi. “I started playing defense. Then after my sophomore season, Coach Bailey asked if I would be interested in playing goalie. It was the better move, and I still like it a lot.”
While manning the net, Luigi is in prime position to help his defenders be in the right place at the right time. When Luigi sees a break heading toward him, he directs traffic to put his fellow Indians in the best possible spot to stop the opposition from scoring.
“During a fast-break, I’ll try to get the defense into a set for the break, so they can be well-prepared to slide if somebody gets past them. That naturally happens in lacrosse—someone always breaks through,” he says. “In a full-field break, I just make sure everyone’s in the correct spot, and they know who’s cutting around them or behind them. Having the view of the field helps a lot.”
Coach Bailey saw Luigi play strong on defense for a few seasons and noticed that he has great stick-handling ability. After his squad lost some quality goalies to graduation, Bailey suggested that Luigi step into the net, and it’s been working out well so far.
“We have been very fortunate the last five years at the goaltender positions with two guys in front of Luigi,” Bailey says. “Luigi always had good stick skills, and he’s a natural vocal leader. He’s done a real nice job for us his senior year.”
When Luigi has a big game coming up, his grandmother, Maria Pietrandrea, likes to make sure that he will have enough energy on the field, and so she cooks him a nice meal with plenty of protein. Luigi likes to stay loose and relaxed prior to game time, but once he hits the field, it’s all business.
“Usually, I’m lucky enough that my grandmother comes over before every event I have, and she cooks me a meal before I go. After I eat, if I have time, I sit down and relax, or I’ll get right on the bus and hang out with the guys and stay loose,” says Luigi, who will attend UConn this fall and major in civil engineering. “You can’t be overanxious. We’ll have a fun time on the bus joking around and, after that, we get serious.”
Luigi also volunteers once a week as a tutor at the Benhaven School, which provides educational services for children and adults with developmental disabilities like autism. Luigi helps teach sign language, among other things, at Benhaven.
“I usually give flash cards and teach signing,” says Luigi. “I started there my sophomore year, and the school has their own adapted sign language, so the tutors and the people being tutored can learn in an easier fashion.”
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