From RBC to College Soccer Standout
Danielle Colaprio is competing in the NCAA Tournament for the Virginia Cavaliers.
Danielle Colaprico's introduction to her favorite sport left her in tears.
"My first experience playing soccer was when I was five years old and my parents (Janet and James) entered me in a girls' recreational league in Old Bridge," Colaprico said. "I stepped on the field with my other teammates for the first match and wound up running off the field when the whistle sounded, crying to my parents, I told them that I didn't want to play."
Now, when the former standout for Red Bank Catholic High School looks back, she's repeatedly grateful she didn't quit. Colaprico blossomed into the 2011 New Jersey Gatorade Girls' Player of the Year and she moved up to compete at the highest level of women's college soccer. Currently a sophomore midfielder, she's played in 46 consecutive games for the University of Virginia, which was recently ranked No. 3 nationally.
Her career gains another highlight Friday night when she competes in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Division I Tournament. Virginia, the Atlantic Coast Conference champion, will host Rutgers University after beating LaSalle of Philadelphia in the opeing round in Charlottesville, 4-1.
As the Cavaliers own a 17-4-1 record, Colaprico is the team's third-leading scorer.
"(Danielle) is one of the most complete players I have ever coached," said Virginia head coach Steve Swanson. "She has made an impact for our program from the moment she arrived (on campus). She is exceptionally quick, solves pressure well, can shoot with both feet and is also a ball winner on the defensive side."
Colaprico always aims to produce 100 percent.
"Dedication (is) always being committed to what you're doing and putting in the time and effort it takes to succeed," she said. "Determination (is) fighting through thick and thin to accomplish your goals."
Red Bank Catholic coach Kenneth Santos often watched Colaprico's exceptional zest and skills.
"I have coached eight years at RBC and many players have been all-staters," said Santos. "However, she ranks as the best player I have coached. All around, there aren't many players that have her complete package as a player.
"My best memories of Danielle are that she was a ridiulously competitive player, in practices and in games. She hated to lose, and no matter what, she played as hard in practice as in games. Also, she had the ability to take games over if we were losing. She would always make a play and that would lead us to winning."
A two-time All-New Jersey honoree, Colaprico totaled 70 career goals for RBC and her prep teams averaged about two losses a season.
"My favorite memory of playing at RBC was definitely winning the Shore Conference championship three years in a row," said Colaprico. "I built so many great friendships and enjoyed how close the team chemistry was, while playing for RBC."
During her prep senior season, the Caseys were the New Jersey State Co-Champions, and she was a two-time Shore Conference Player of the Year. As a scholar, she earned academic excellence awards all four years at RBC.
"My parents always told me: 'Always give everything your best shot on and off the field," she said.
Santos praised Colaprico for impressive ability to read and understand the game.
"She was a true-lead-by-example person," said Santos. "She never raised her voice, but led by her actions. In about 80-plus games for RBC, I can only remember about a handful of mistakes she made as a player...She was years ahead of her time as far as understanding the game."
At the RBC post-season banquet two years ago, Santos recalled Colaprico's speech.
"All the success she had, she also valued her teammates and coaches to the extent that she wanted everyone to know how valuable her RBC time was," said Santos. "I think that speaks volumes about her."
Colaprico, who has also participated with the USA Under-17 National Team, quickly proved herself at the college level and made the 2011 All-ACC Freshman team.
"I feel that I have grown very much as a player while here at UVa," she said. "The college game is, definitely, more physical than what I was sued to before college, which has made me a stronger player. The college game is faster than prep soccer, which has helped me increase my speed of play."
After she earns her degree in psychology, Colaprico has a specific ambition.
"I hope to play professional soccer after college," she said.