For most lacrosse players, leaving a northeastern state like New Jersey, where the sport is popular, to play in Florida is unheard of. But for University of Florida junior Nicole Graziano, turning down the opportunity to play for the Gators was not an option.
“The coaches definitely sold the university to me,” said Graziano. “And just coming down here—it’s hard not to love it.”
The midfielder played lacrosse as a four-year starter for West Morris Mendham High School in New Jersey before deciding to join her older sister, Erin, as a Gator after her first visit to Gainesville.
“There were many different factors that led me to come here. One of them was definitely our facilities; they are unlike any other in the whole country,” said Graziano. “We travel to a bunch of different schools, and I don’t think anything compares to the University of Florida.”
Since becoming a Gator, Graziano has appeared in nearly every game, recording 37 goals in her first two seasons, and made the 2012 SEC First-Year Honor Roll following her freshman season. However, her favorite moment during her first two years was not an individual achievement.
“My proudest accomplishment is probably winning the American Lacrosse Conference tournaments my past two years. That was definitely a huge team victory for us, when we won those championships,” said Graziano.
A superstitious person, not a game goes by that Graziano does not partake in some pregame ritual before taking the field.
“Me and two of my teammates– Krista [Grabher] and Lauren Lea, we do this thing where we have game day tattoos–they are fake tattoos that we put on the inside of our left wrists,” said Graziano.
She added that braiding her hair, wearing a headband and eating Chicken Marsala the night before a game are a must for success. That success is important now and in the future.
Lacrosse has always been an important part of Graziano’s life. So important that she hopes it will translate into a career down the road.
“I hope to see myself coaching lacrosse, or maybe just doing something in sports,” said Graziano.
For now, Graziano is excited to don orange and blue when she takes the field with her teammates for the 2014 season.