February 28, 2013

Bianculli's Road To, From and Back to Rollins

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

After setting program records at Rollins in its inaugural season, Courtney Bianculli left the school and was away for the team for two seasons. She's back now.
© Jason Miczek

When it was decreed that every member of the Rollins women's lacrosse team would wear black-rimmed nerd glasses for their team photo this year, Courtney Bianculli began to worry a bit.

"All I could think of was my poor mom being devastated," Bianculli said.

Her concerns were valid. After all, this was an important moment, the last photo of her college career. And it's been a really long college career.

When Dennis Short was named the first head coach in Rollins history back in 2007, he had to quickly cobble together a team. Most of the girls were athletes who had never played lacrosse before, but Short was lucky enough to find two local girls with playing experience.

Then he received word from then-C.W. Post and current Colby head coach Karen MacCrate. There was a Long Island girl, from Ward Melville (N.Y.) High, whose family had just moved to the Orlando area. Short should follow up, MacCrate said.

Bianculli hadn't planned on playing college lacrosse when her family moved to Florida, because there was no college lacrosse to speak of. But she ended up the star of Rollins' inaugural team, setting program records and leading the squad in scoring.

A year later, she wasn't on the team. Now she is again. It's kind of a long story. But it has a happy ending.

Though Bianculli scored 36 goals, and still holds program single-game records for goals (eight), points (nine) and ground balls (nine), the first year hardly was a success. Rollins went 3-9 before Short cut 10 of the 14 players on the team and canceled the remainder of the season.

Bianculli was not cut from the team, but by the next winter she had left Rollins, she assumed for good.

"The first year was brutal," Bianculli said. "It kind of kicked my butt a little bit."

She looked for a job. When that didn't work out, Bianculli enrolled in community college and gave academics a second shot. The energies that had lifted her on the field were focused into her studies. She left lacrosse with the intention of raising her grade point average. She did just that, earning an associate's degree.

The next logical step was a four-year college -- preferably one with a lacrosse team.

"I'd proved myself," Bianculli said. "I was ready to tackle something else."

Bianculli moved back to Long Island, where she figured she would go to school. She was in contact with a couple of local coaches. It made sense. She would finish her college career on the island she grew up on. It's not like she would be welcome back at Rollins. Right?

© Rollins

"It felt awkward to go up to [Short] and say, 'Hey, do you still want me?'" Bianculli said. "I let him know I was looking at schools. He asked, 'What would it take to bring you back here?' That's a huge comfort thing. That was enough for me."

After two seasons away from the team, Bianculli returned to Rollins to find a totally different team. Short was able to recruit the kind of players that fit his vision. Rollins wasn't just good; it was a national title contender.

"I was so intimidated coming back," Bianculli said. "I guess I should have thought of myself as more of a veteran. I was older than a lot of girls on your team. I was so determined. This was a team full of laxers."

Bianculli has yet to come close to the 36 goals she scored as a freshman. In fact, she scored more goals in her record-setting 2008 game against St. Andrews than she did in her entire two years back. But she has carved out a role doing the little things.

Bianculli started every game in 2011, led the team in ground balls and finished second in caused turnovers. Rollins went 13-4 that season. Last year, she again led the team in ground balls with 65, good for third in all of Division II.

"It's a long way to come," Bianculli said. "A bunch of little steps. To go from where we started to what we have now, it's awesome. I don't think this happens a lot. This is my baby that's grown up."

Bianculli's eligibility finally runs out following this season. She graduated in December with an English degree and is currently working on her masters in liberal studies. She won't get another lacrosse picture. But that's OK. The one with the Steve Urkel specs didn't break her mother's heart after all.

"She asked if I got new glasses," Bianculli said. "My dad loves it though."


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