In her freshman year as a member of the River Hawks, Ferraro was part of a team that went a perfect 24-0 in 2010, culminating in an NCAA Division II title.
If not for a fortuitous job change by her field hockey coach, she might not have even wound up there. For that matter, a star in multiple sports, Ferraro wasn’t even sure she was going to continue her field hockey career at all.
“I was originally being recruited for softball, and I didn’t think field hockey had anything to do with it,” she said. “But by the end of my senior year, I wanted to do both.”
After being recruited for softball by Sean Cotter at SUNY Plattsburgh, Ferraro followed the coach when he made the move to UMass-Lowell. The notion of playing both softball and field hockey, an opportunity to study at Lowell’s School of Business and an athletic scholarship that covers $33,000 of her annual tuition was enough to convince Ferraro that it was worth considering taking her talents to the Bay State.
“I visited the campus, met most of the girls,” she said. “The next day I had lunch with the field hockey coach (Shannon Hlebichuk), and I was really nervous.”
While winning has long been a field hockey tradition under coach Deb Eaton at Kingston High, it’s also fair to say that’s it’s come to be expected at UMass-Lowell. In the eight seasons prior to Ferraro’s arrival, the River Hawks won five straight Northeast-10 Conference tournament titles and made seven consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division II Final Four, winning the championship in 2005. But while the run of success was apparently big news in the state of Massachusetts, Ferraro admitted she wasn’t as up on the program’s history.
“I actually went up to Lowell during the summer,” she said. “All the Massachusetts girls knew how successful they were. Coming from New York, I really didn’t have an idea of it.”
Ferraro played in 13 games during her freshman season, scoring two goals but rarely making it into the mix during crunch time. She said she never had an issue with her relatively small role, choosing instead to learn from her teammates.
“Did I want to get in and play? Yes. But did I think the players who were in were the best the team had at that time? Yes. Being the MVP of my section (in high school), I knew that they were all MVPs of their league when they were in high school, too. They were the big fish in their little ponds. But they had the experience. And I’m a better player now than I was at the beginning of the season because of it.”
Ferraro expects her role will increase next season as the team goes through the annual college tradition of seeing its senior players lost to graduation. She’s hoping she’ll be able to repeat the feeling of winning the NCAA title again.
“It was incredible,” she said of the moment of ultimate victory. “Everyone rushed the field. We had parents down, we had alumni who flew down (to Kentucky) to watch us play. It was unbelievable. Winning regionals and going to states was an awesome experience (in high school), but I don’t think anything in my life will ever compare to this.”
Ferraro’s former coach at Kingston said she’s proud of Ferraro’s accomplishments. Eaton tries to see each of her former players compete at the collegiate level at least once during their four years of eligibility, something she’s looking forward to doing with Ferraro sometime in the future.
“I’m just very proud of her,” Eaton said. “It’s very exciting.”
Eaton said her team helps guide younger girls in the community during an annual summer field hockey camp, and the success of players like Ferraro as they move beyond high school serves as a great inspiration to young athletes who’ll one day compete for the Tigers.
“It’s magical how that works,” Eaton said. “The little ones do look up to them and follow them.”
Asked if she had any advice for younger players now that she’s just wrapped her first successful college season, Ferraro said it was important to not take opportunities for granted.
“Play every game and practice like it’s your last because eventually it will be,” she said.