Conestoga girls lacrosse co-captain Alex Aufiero was looking forward to the Pioneers making a spirited run to the PIAA state title this spring; however, once the PIAA spring season was cancelled April 9, she applied her leadership skills to a different type of lacrosse campaign, The Lacrosse Village Initiative.
The Lacrosse Village Initiative was started in early April and helps people in the greater Philadelphia area who are working on the front lines fighting COVID-19, and those who are affected by the pandemic. The “village” is comprised of local high school and club lacrosse teams that create, and hold drives to collect appreciation kits and masks for healthcare workers, hygiene kits for shelters and family meal kits for community food pantries.
“Alex has played a major role in the Lacrosse Initiative,” said Conestoga girls’ lacrosse head coach Amy Orcutt. “She has been the one reaching out to the charities, helping organize the drop off locations and has been on every conference call.”
Aufiero said, “We developed this program to give people in our community a very safe and easy way to donate physical items, as opposed to simply asking for money. I helped develop the program and now I organize the teams who join the initiative, contact local organizations, speak with coaches on Zoom calls and run the social media accounts.”
The Lacrosse Village started with the girls’ lacrosse teams at Conestoga, The Shipley School and Eyekonz Sports, with Orcutt, Shipley head coach Shannon O’Neil and Eyekonz head coach Jazmine Smith working with Aufiero and others to run the Lacrosse Village.
“I have learned so much from Amy, Shannon and Jazmine about networking in the lacrosse community and putting together this sustainable volunteer program,” said Aufiero. “We work cohesively, and I am so grateful that Amy asked me to help out with this project when Jazmine contacted her in early April, bringing us together to develop a program to help fill a significant need in our communities. I give so much credit to them for their passion and dedication, I would not be doing all this if it weren’t for them.
“I love working on the initiative because it has given me something extremely meaningful to do with my time away from school. It keeps me involved with my teammates and community service; Amy places so much value on helping others and it has clearly rubbed off on me and my team. It has been amazing to see the lacrosse community come together and help hundreds to thousands of people.”
Recently, the girls’ lacrosse teams at Upper Dublin High School, Radnor High School, Penn Young Quakers, Philly Blast, Ultimate Goal Lacrosse, Mesa Lacrosse, NXT, Harlem Lacrosse, Springside Academy, Strath Haven High School, and Black Women in sports have joined in, and three Sixers alumni – .Cuttino Mobley, Alvin Williams and Terq Mott – have also helped. The feedback has been encouraging.
Aufiero said, “Some of the teams contribute by holding a donation drive for their local lacrosse community, they find organizations nearby that need help and target their needs collaboratively with The Lacrosse Village. Some teams help by promoting our work on social media, their websites or through their email lists. Others create kits for donations. I have loved talking to so many new coaches and influential people in this lacrosse community on Zoom calls and phone calls. All of our feedback has been extremely positive, and people are constantly willing to give us tips on how to grow.”
Aufiero, who will be playing lacrosse for George Washington University next year, naturally was disappointed that Conestoga’s 2020 lacrosse season was cancelled.
“Our group of girls was truly so passionate, and the energy felt right [in pre-season] – and I wanted to leave a lasting mark on the Conestoga girls lacrosse program, to be proud of my last season on Teamer,” said Aufiero. “I worked with the other seniors in the off season to set a positive and energetic mentality for the team; we did so much planning and preparation and it stinks that we will never get to see our hard work pay off. We worked throughout fall-ball and winter training to make the program feel cohesive and make the players feel confident for the spring season.
“I took my role as a captain very seriously and I wanted to be a good role model for the younger girls. I worked my hardest both on and off the field to benefit my team, and I hope I left enough with the underclassman to succeed next year.”
Aufiero has plenty of good memories to take with her from her Conestoga girls lacrosse career, her favorite being the Pioneers’ 13-12 win in the PIAA District 1 3A semifinals against Garnet Valley.
“It was one of the most intense, energetic, competitive games of the season, and at the end of the game we all ran onto the field and hugged and cheered,” said Aufiero. “The glorious moments like that make me love the sport. It is such an amazing feeling when you get to celebrate all of your hard work with a group of people you love after playing a talented and respected team, like Garnet.”
Aufiero, who began playing lacrosse in elementary school, credited much of her success to Orcutt.
“I have learned so much from Amy – she created the optimal team environment where I was encouraged to take risks on the field and pushed to work harder every day,” said Aufiero. “She taught me that being a great player is equally as important as being a great person and that hard work and dedication really do pay off.
“I also give so much credit to my coaches at Philly Blast, Josie Tomaino and Julie Young, because they helped me develop my skills and pushed me to grow as a player. Both Josie and Julie made my club-lacrosse career a fun one and they gave me so much support throughout the recruiting process.”
A well-rounded student at Conestoga, Aufiero also was an officer for the Peer Mediation team, belonged to the National Honor Society, did hair and makeup for the school musicals, played soccer for the Pioneers and is currently working on her Girl Scout Gold Award.
At George Washington University, Aufiero plans to study public health.
“I have always been interested in medicine and society, and I am so excited to be studying both at George Washington,” said Aufiero. “I hope to work in some type of healthcare or medical management field in the future.”
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