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Montville - Gabby Iaconiello never thought she was going to play high school lacrosse.
With Montville High approving club teams for boys' and girls' lacrosse in 2013, the plan was for the Indians' programs to remain at the club level for at least two years. That meant Iaconiello, a fanatic of the sport who grew up playing in the youth leagues in Ledyard and at one time considered transferring to Ledyard for the opportunity to play it, would graduate prior to Montville's first varsity season.
Then came Wednesday afternoon in the Montville High auditorium, a day when so many high school athletes in eastern Connecticut signed letters of intent to compete at the collegiate level.
Iaconiello, a Montville senior, was one of them, signing to play lacrosse next season at Division II Pace University in Pleasantville, N.Y.
A member of Montville's first-year varsity program this year - the promotion to the varsity level was moved up a year due to the Indians' success as a club - Iaconiello will become a member of Pace's first-year varsity program next year, as the Setters get ready to add field hockey and women's lacrosse.
Gabby Iaconiello, trailblazer.
"I was hoping I could get it here. We finally got the OK to be a club team," said Iaconiello, flanked by her parents Tony and Sue as she signed her official letter. "I feel like I'm opening doors for the other girls on the team."
Montville athletic director Walt Sherwin said he would walk out in back of the school at times - before the introduction of lacrosse to the school - to survey the situation at some of the Indians' spring sports practices. There would be Iaconiello with a lacrosse stick.
"I would go play wall ball at Camp Oakdale or just get some other girls to play. I would bring some extra lacrosse sticks for people to try it and they would have fun doing it," Iaconiello said.
Montville coach Kristin Ventresca also initiated a youth lacrosse program in town, referred to as MLAX, figuring that every high school team needs its own feeder program. Ventresca's own four children, once competing in the youth program in East Lyme, are now aspiring Montville High School lacrosse players.
"These girls look up to (Iaconiello) and what she's been able to accomplish," Ventresca said of the Indians. "She's the consummate team player. I adore her on the field and off. She goes by our motto, 'team as one.' She's there to lift everyone up. She's one of the best players, but she doesn't act like that."
Montville, 2-5 overall and 1-4 in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Small Division, won its varsity opener on April 9, defeating Griswold 15-7. Iaconiello, a midfielder and co-captain, leads the way for the Indians with 21 goals and four assists.
She received a partial athletic scholarship and partial academic scholarship to play next year at Pace for coach Michael Spinner, a Pace graduate and former girls' coach at Trumbull High School.
"She pretty much did this on her own," Ventresca said of Iaconiello. "She held in there. ... This is the beginning (for Montville lacrosse players). I couldn't be more proud."
Also signing letters of intent Wednesday were Ledyard's Hannah Hutchins, who previously gave a verbal commitment to play for the women's basketball team at Division I Utah State; Waterford's Aaron Schwartz, who signed to play for the men's soccer team next season at Division I Sacred Heart University in Fairfield; and 28 members of the Norwich Free Academy senior class.
Representing NFA were, Taylor Driggers (track, Eastern Connecticut State), Nicole Coughlin (track, Eastern Connecticut State), Camille McKenzie (track, Sacred Heart), Shania Homiski (track, Hartford), MiaLynne Park (track, Bryant), Melissa Castillo (softball, Albertus Magnus), Emily DeVito (softball, Long Island University, previously announced), Frankie Lee (golf, Franklin & Marshall), Desmond D'Elia Miller (basketball, Dean), Michael Ryan (basketball, Western New England), Ibo Rivera (basketball, UConn-Avery Point), Olivia Ouellet (basketball, Catholic) and Alyssa Velles (basketball, Saint Peter's, previously announced).
Also, Ramel Williams (football, American International College), Alex Beaudreault (football, Kean), Tuzar Skipper (football, Monroe), Calvin Green (football, Westfield State), Charlie Jarmon (football, Fitchburg State), Airec Ricks (football, American International College), Marcus Outlow (football, Boston College, previously announced), Aidan Karam (swimming, Bentley), Tyler Simmons (acrobatics and tumbling, King), Chance Gendron (baseball, UMass Dartmouth), Eddie Gates (baseball, Norwich), Brandon Deveny (baseball, Citadel), Mason Rivera (soccer, New Haven), Izaak Miller (soccer, Allegheny) and Timothy Paz (soccer, Mass. Maritime).