By Justin Lafleur
Lehigh Sports Media Relations
For Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 12/28/15
“Setbacks pave the way for comebacks” is a saying Lehigh women’s lacrosse junior midfielder Julianne D’Orazio (Merion Mercy Academy) has learned to embrace.
D’Orazio experienced a significant setback last season, but flash forward a few months and things are drastically different. After missing all last season due to injury, D’Orazio is primed to return better than ever this spring.
“I’ve had my fair share of injuries, but last season was harder,” said D’Orazio. I started off thinking I was going to miss one game, then one game turned into two games, then I thought I’d be back for Patriot League play. Once those games came and I still wasn’t able to get back on the field, I accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be able to play.”
Despite the tough times that come with missing a season, the experience allowed D’Orazio to develop an added appreciation of the sport of lacrosse and grow closer to her teammates, all while bringing the family atmosphere of Lehigh women’s lacrosse to the forefront.
The year was lost from game action, but D’Orazio stayed invested with her teammates, trying to help them in any way possible.
“Once I accepted the fact that I was not getting back on the field, I tried to find other things I could do, whether it was giving someone a pump-up speech before a game or helping coach my teammates,” she said. “I even made a couple videos, so was focused on getting the team pumped up in any way possible. It was definitely a give-and-take of positivity.”
Positivity has always been part of D’Orazio, who does wonders for team chemistry just by her personality. She’s the type of person who likes to be friends with everyone.
Nicknamed Jules, D’Orazio is known as the “glue girl.” Leading from the side can be a challenge, but she was forced to do just that and came out with a clear appreciation for the value of overcoming adversity.
Last spring, D’Orazio was struggling to stay positive and needed her teammates more than ever. They came through.
“The coaches, my friends and my teammates were unbelievable, showing so much support,” she said. “No one wants to be sitting out, especially with the uncertainty of my injury. There was no timetable. It was tough, but everyone kept me positive, which really helped.”
Through a tough time, Julianne also earned a greater appreciation of a sport she already loved.
“When playing lacrosse is out of your control, it just makes you appreciate the sport that much more,” she said. “It made me appreciate being a part of such a close team.”
In many ways, this season is like a whole new beginning for Julianne. She enjoyed a strong freshman season, starting 16 games in the midfield while tallying 21 groundballs, 23 draw controls and 22 caused turnovers. Lehigh advanced to the Patriot League Tournament, and followed with a second straight appearance last season.
For D’Orazio, team chemistry is key to success.
“When you’re in the moment of a game and things aren’t going well, team chemistry goes a long way,” she said. “Instead of getting down on your teammates during tough times, if you have good chemistry, you’re a family. Good chemistry can help bring you up in that moment and get you past the challenges you face.”
For the rest of the Mountain Hawks, Julianne is the key to team chemistry and success.
“Jules has an individual relationship with each member of our team,” said junior captain Allison LaBeau. “Whether she has class with one or eats lunch with another, she is always looking for ways to connect with our players.”
“Jules went through a tough time last season, but she was able to bring the team closer because of it,” said senior captain Kendall Garden. “She wanted what was best for the team and did anything she could to make it happen. Jules knows how to bring people together for a common goal, which makes her an irreplaceable teammate.”
The injury and recovery process has made Julianne stronger, both mentally and physically. She put in a lot of extra time and hard work in order to get back to full health.
“I took the whole summer and worked hard, just getting back and trying to work on tangible things like stick skills and intangible aspects like mental toughness. I took the summer to get that much better and had to work that much harder.”
D’Orazio is back and anxious to get the 2016 season underway after getting some playing time under her belt this fall.
“I was definitely nervous getting back because I hadn’t played for such a long time, but it was really easy,” she said. “Just being out for that long, I realized how much I love playing and love my team. It’s been amazing getting back and having a whole new sense of appreciation for the game and for my teammates.”
D’Orazio is embracing a new role this season, taking over as a leader of a defense which lost a trio of four-year starters in Kelly Scott, Lauren Willcox and Michelle Abramczyk.
“It’s so different, but I love it,” said D’Orazio. “Kelly, Willcox and Mesh (Michelle) were great role models. I think back to when I was playing with them and try to emulate what they did. I also enjoy having things in my hands and having people look to me to lead the way.”
Lehigh head coach Jill Redfern is looking forward to that leadership this spring.
“We are very excited to have Julianne healthy this season,” she said. “She’s an excellent athlete and a very strong competitor. This spring, we will look to Jules to mark-up the opponent’s greatest scoring threat and be the leader of a relatively young defensive unit.”
Power of Family
Last season, the power of the Lehigh women’s lacrosse family came to the forefront.
“We genuinely care about each other,” said D’Orazio. “We’re such good friends that it helps on the field. You literally have 25 sisters. That culture starts from the coaches. When the coaches care about you, you care about them, and it flows from there. That helps on the field.”
The genuine caring was on full display last season.
“We all supported Jules, letting her know that the time off was dedicated to making her healthier and stronger,” said LaBeau. “When Jules wasn’t able to travel with us, we made sure to bring her along in spirit with a Julianne version of Flat Stanley. We just tried to reinforce that taking her time was okay.”
“Our athletes are incredibly supportive of one another,” said Redfern. “The relationships that are formed on our team, both on and off the field, last a lifetime.”
As the 2016 season approaches, D’Orazio finds herself recalling the choices she made after the injury.
“One of my favorite quotes is ‘setbacks pave the way for comebacks,” she said.
After her injury, Julianne made a choice to use the experience to learn, develop and grow. With the coaching staff looking to D’Orazio for defensive leadership, she feels ready for her role. The season opener is February 13 against Penn State, which will mark the start of D’Orazio’s comeback, holding the pieces together from the field rather than the sideline.
“Despite missing last season, I found ways to improve as a player and teammate,” she said. “I believe I’m a better player today because of what happened. I can’t wait to be back on the field with my family.”