By: Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Media Relations
Senior Leigh Ann Torcivia wanted to play soccer in college; playing lacrosse wasn’t even in her mind. Ultimately, the New Jersey native came to Lehigh, which has deep family routes. Her aunt Bonnie, a former Lehigh lacrosse and field hockey player herself, was a big influence in Leigh Ann even playing lacrosse, never mind developing into an All-Patriot League player.
“My cousin went here, so we came and visited,” said Torcivia. “He gave us a tour of campus and we hung out with some of his friends. I liked the atmosphere here originally, just academically and socially. My decision to come to Lehigh had nothing to do with athletics.”
Any opportunity to play soccer collegiately ultimately fell through. Not until a week before she came to Lehigh did the thought of becoming a Division I lacrosse player even come to mind.
“My aunt convinced me to talk to [head coach] Jill [Redfern],” said Torcivia. “I wasn’t recruited. I didn’t know what I was going to do. She said just give it a chance; she gave me a little nudge to try out.”
“I had seen Leigh Ann play in high school, so I was aware of her. I had name recognition,” said Redfern. “She showed up as a walk-on and was so fast. Her greatest attribute as a freshman was her tremendous speed.”
The walk-on process was obviously nerve-racking, but Leigh Ann excelled. She practiced with the team for a week, evaluated solely by how she performed during practice.
“You never know what they’re thinking,” said Torcivia. “You’re going through a week wondering if you’re doing the right things. I didn’t know what they were going to say when I walked into their office.”
“When you have someone willing to take the risk of walking on to a Division I team and risk not making it, it says something about her,” said Redfern.
For Leigh Ann, it was extra special to be playing college lacrosse, and playing at Lehigh - a school with deep family ties. Even beyond her aunt, Leigh Ann’s dad and uncle went to Lehigh. Her cousin graduated two years ago while her younger cousin (Emily) is currently on the field hockey team.
Leigh Ann had plenty of work to do on the lacrosse field, but it didn’t take long for her to develop into an All-League caliber performer… literally. Torcivia was named Second Team All-Patriot League as a freshman, posting 41 groundballs, 37 draw controls and 11 caused turnovers along with two goals and an assist.
“My stick skills were not as good originally,” said Torcivia. “Even after I made the team, it was hard work, but my confidence grew as the season went on.”
Torcivia has continued to develop over her career, becoming one of the best players not only in the Patriot League, but also regionally and nationally. She began as a line defender, which served well with her speed.
“I played defense in soccer, so it was definitely a place where I had a lot of confidence,” said Torcivia. “I started playing more when Coach saw how I was at the defensive end.”
“Leigh Ann has improved every year she’s been in the program,” said Redfern. “She invested herself as a line defender, the most common place to start as an inexperienced player. She was someone with more athleticism than lacrosse experience.
"She excelled immediately and helped our transition game,” Redfern continued. “Then, she couldn’t stop playing. Her competitive experience and will to get better has continued to improve. Her stick work and technical skills have improved tremendously.”
Torcivia went on to earn First Team All-Patriot League honors as a sophomore and junior, combining for 86 groundballs and 85 draw controls over that stretch. She also garnered All-Region honors last year for the first time and was named the preseason Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year prior to her senior campaign.
Torcivia’s role has changed dramatically, shifting to midfield where she’s made an impact at both ends of the field. Heading into the season finale vs. Navy Saturday, she stands second on the team with 43 points, which includes a team-leading 20 assists, easily shattering her career highs of three points and one assist. Not only has she facilitated the offense, but she also continues to excel defensively, leading the way in groundballs (34) and caused turnovers (15) while standing second in draw controls (36).
It wasn’t the easiest of transitions, but Torcivia caught on fairly quickly.
“As the years went on, I watched players like LD (Lauren Dykstra), Allison [Thomas] and Kindall [Healy].” she said. “Those players were so good, I was able to pick up their techniques and incorporate it into my game, which helped me transition.”
“It was definitely tough at first because my endurance wasn’t as good as someone who should be at midfield. But once I got the game experience, I got used to it. I played attack in high school, so it was nice to be back on the attack side.”
The team lost a significant amount of scoring, including the Patriot League’s all-time leading goal scorer Lauren Dykstra. That forced Leigh Ann out of her “comfort zone” at defense, but the team needed her to step up this year and that’s what she’s done. She wants to be remembered as someone who always put the team first.
“Leigh Ann’s an incredible athlete that can do whatever’s asked of her,” said Redfern. “She’s ascended to playing both sides because she was so willing and driven to be a point producer. Not every player can change roles as seamlessly as Leigh Ann.”
“Focusing on individual goals and accomplishments will only get you so far, but I want to be known as someone who helped the team as a whole,” said Leigh Ann.
Torcivia has made her presence felt outside of lacrosse as well, especially academically and in the leadership realm. She was the team’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year last season while serving as co-captain with junior Julie McBrien this year.
“I never realized how much time and effort the captains put in outside of practice, just thinking about all the different factors that contribute to how the team plays well,” said Torcivia. “…and what we can do to make it better. I think it brought out a leadership side of me I hadn’t really seen. It was definitely a great experience.”
Perhaps most importantly, Torcivia has been a major contributor during an important part of the program’s history. She helped extend the Lehigh’s streak of Patriot League Tournament appearances to five, which included two regular season league titles and an appearance in the 2010 Championship Game. That alone is much more important than any individual accolade Torcivia has won.
“Leigh Ann delivered on her potential for four years,” said Redfern. “She’s set an example for the younger athletes. She has taken ownership of her own development and it’s paid big dividends. You can be a different player when you leave than when you arrive.”
“I’ve definitely grown so much,” said Torcivia. “You wouldn’t have even recognized me when I was a freshman.”