Joe Cipoletti thought that his competitive lacrosse career was over once he graduated from Sacred Heart this spring.
It wouldn’t have been the worst way for it to end, after a senior campaign where he led all of Division I in both total caused turnovers with a whopping 43 and caused turnovers per game at 3.31. He caused multiple turnovers in nine games, including a ridiculous seven-caused turnover effort against Binghamton. For his efforts, the Team 91 2015 alum by way of Half Hollow Hills West landed on the All-NEC first team.
Despite that, he didn’t expect to be picked up by a pro team, so it was a surprise to him when his sister, Rose, started getting text messages from friends congratulating him on being chosen by Major League Lacrosse‘s New York Lizards. The only downside? Cipoletti was fast asleep when the news broke.
“My sister came downstairs yelling, saying that I’d been drafted by the Lizards, and I just thought, ‘no way, that’s crazy,'” Cipoletti said. “It was the best thing I could have woken up to. I definitely thought I had a chance, but it’s not up to me, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up to be let down. Whatever happens, happens, and thankfully, they picked me up.”
Cipoletti is the first Team 91 alum to play professionally, and he gets thrown right into the fire as the Lizards kick off their season tonight at 7:30 against the Denver Outlaws at Hofstra’s James M. Shuart Stadium. It was particularly special for Cipoletti to be chosen by his hometown team, a team that he grew up rooting for.
“I’m so happy because I thought I was done, and I’m lucky enough to continue playing at a competitive level,” Cipoletti said. “I grew up watching the Lizards and it’s crazy to be playing at home in New York. I never thought that it would be a thing.
“We are extremely excited to be able to add Cip to our roster,” Lizards general manager and Team 91 2020 Crushand 2023 Bandits head coach Joe Spallina said. “He’s someone who had a tremendous collegiate career and we feel that he can be a contributor in the MLL.”
Cipoletti, who is looking to attend graduate school for physical therapy, hopes to make an immediate impact for the Lizards. You don’t get to be a turnover-causing machine by luck, so he knows that he brings something unique to the table. The Lizards have a ridiculously loaded attack line that should keep goalies turning and raking all summer, but they’re always going to be looking for defensive reinforcements, especially those that can take the ball away at a moment’s notice.
“You could say that I have a good stick, and I have a thing for picking off balls out of the air,” Cipoletti said. “I like to play the system and I think I have a good IQ of the game. I can see where people and the ball are going to be, and that helps me a lot. It just comes to me when I’m in the right spot at the right time.”
Of course, going from the grizzled veteran at Sacred Heart to the fresh-faced rookie in the pros will be an adjustment, but it’s a good problem to have.
“Our first game is (tonight), and I haven’t played since we got knocked out of our conference tournament, so I’m itching to get back on the field,” Cipoletti said. “It’s going to be a weird feeling to be the rookie again, but it’s a good feeling. Everything could have just been over, and I’m lucky enough to be able to be a rookie one more time.”