On Monday morning, the Ithaca College women’s lacrosse team got the call to be one of three at-large bids to the Div. III NCAA Tournament. After being unsure if they would have a season at all, the Bombers will now have the opportunity to play for a national title. Former Sharon (soccer and lacrosse) standouts Samantha and Alex Rabb have played every game for Ithaca this season, leaning on each other during a tumultuous year, and enjoying the fact that they can share this experience of a senior season together.
“It’s a blessing every day that we get to go out there,” Alex explained. “We never know what’s going to happen, literally, tomorrow, so I know I make sure to have fun at every practice we have, leave it all on the field.”
Sam added, “It definitely makes you know how lucky you are to be on a lacrosse field, especially with everything going on in the world. Being able to step onto the field every day and put out your best effort, we’re always going 100 percent because you never know when it can be taken away.”
In the three previous seasons, the twins’ playing time had been inconsistent. Alex played 10 times as a freshman and seven as a sophomore. In her junior year, she scored three goals in the first four games before a knee injury cut short the season one game before the pandemic would shut the whole team down. Sam had played in seven games total over the first three seasons (all as a sophomore).
But at the final practice before the season opener against rival SUNY Cortland, Ithaca coach Karrie Moore read out the starting lineup. Both sisters were included.
“When I found out that I was starting, it was definitely very exciting because I have not gotten much playing time in the other seasons,” Sam said. “So, to know that my coach has a lot of trust in me to be on the field with all the other defenders, who are great, it feels really great.”
The excitement of getting a starting spot was amplified by being able to share the field with each other. Alex said, “[Coach] said Sam’s name last and I almost wanted to cry. I just felt so happy for her because I knew she’d been working so hard and she wanted it so badly. It’s pretty cool hearing both of our names get called before every game.”
Alex has started all 13 games for the Bombers, who entered the final week of the regular season as the seventh-ranked team in the country. Sam has started all but one game and appeared in all 13. Ithaca went undefeated in the regular season and advanced to the Liberty League final thanks to a five-goal outburst from Alex, including three goals in less than a minute.
There is the obvious connection that exists between sisters, even more so as twins, but also a connection forged by being on the field together for almost a decade, going back to their success in multiple sports at Sharon. Sam was a standout defender and Alex set the program scoring record (and was named HockomockSports.com Player of the Year), while leading the lacrosse program to its first two state tournament appearances in 2016 and 2017.
“We were kind of always playing together,” Sam explained. “Now, it’s higher stakes, it’s way more competitive, so when one of us does something really good, it just fires us up way more. On defense, I know that it makes everything so much better watching her play too, just being there. ”
Alex continued, “Being seniors this year, both starting, it’s just crazy because you know we actually earned our spot on the field. We both got here, we’re both good enough to play on a team that is highly-ranked. I am very confident in Sam, when she has the ball and I know she’s confident when I have the ball, so it’s just really fun to play with everyone on the field who’s just as good as you are.”
Sharing the college experience extends beyond the playing field and that support system has been critical in a year unlike any other.
“My major is athletic training and I have a lot of clinical hours that I have to make up from not being able to do them in the fall,” Alex said. “It was very questionable if I was even going to be allowed to play lacrosse this season. I’ve been pretty busy this semester, so yeah it’s been really helpful having Sam here to just bounce things off of if I need support.”
Sam added, “Especially with Covid, you know you can’t take anything for granted any more and being able to go to college with my sister and both being able to play on the lacrosse team and live with her here, we don’t take anything for granted.”
Whether it was injury or the pandemic, having a season taken away inevitably adds perspective to being able to get on the field every day. A senior-laden team, Ithaca has been strong from the outset, going 11-0 in the regular season and advancing to the conference tournament final for the third year running.
Despite a loss to William Smith, who the Bombers beat twice in the regular season, Ithaca is now 3-1 against teams that qualified for the tournament and has four wins against ranked teams. They open the tournament against Notre Dame of Maryland University on Sunday.
“We are expecting to go into the tournament and make it pretty far,” said Alex a few days before the Liberty League semifinal. “Everyone who’s starting right now is basically all seniors and that’s all we want. We just want to prove to everyone that we’ve been working hard.”
Sam added, “First we’re trying to win the Liberty League and then we’re trying to win a national championship. It’s scheduled for graduation weekend and all of us seniors are like, we don’t want to go to graduation. We want to win a championship.”
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