Senior goalie Lexi Arancio stands in the goal Oct. 12 at Ulrich Sports Complex. Arancio stepped in when the team was lacking a backup goalie earlier this season. (B&W Staff/Annie Henry)

Setbacks and comebacks: Lehigh senior Lexi Arancio finds way to contribute to field hockey team despite injury


Every summer, the Lehigh field hockey team hosts a clinic for incoming and prospective recruits.

Senior backup goalie Lexi Arancio was one of the incoming defensive recruits playing in the clinic’s tournament the summer after her senior year of high school.

She remembers sitting on the bleachers and talking with her new teammates before the game started. When someone asked her about her biggest fear, Arancio’s answer was tearing her ACL.

Her biggest nightmare became her scariest reality just 20 minutes into the tournament.

“A few minutes in, we all saw her kind of step weird, and we kind of had an idea of what happened, and it was just a weird coincidence we were just talking about it,” senior midfielder Jackie Renda said.

Arancio said coming in as an injured freshman immediately put her at a disadvantage.

She said she cried a lot after recognizing the implications of her injury but learned and matured from the unfortunate circumstances and didn’t let them get the best of her.

After rehab consumed her first year on the team, Arancio got her first chance to play sophomore year, but she no longer felt like she could contribute to the team as a player and realized she had to find another way.

During her junior year, she asked coach Caitlin Dallmeyer about her options, and that’s when she moved into a managerial position.

Dallmeyer said the decision to move Arancio into a student manager role was made after Arancio’s injury lingered and her recovery process was not progressing at the rate needed to get her back on the playing field.

“I don’t think that her body ever made the full recovery,” Renda said, “and I think the fact that she kind of had in the back of her head that she wasn’t going to be able to live up to the potential that she imagined for herself — that kind of was a little devastating for her — and I think that’s what made her want to transition into more of a manager role instead of a player role.”

Arancio said her managerial role gave her the chance to observe her teammates from the sidelines during practices and games and to critique their techniques and styles of play.

Arancio also had the chance to watch her teammates grow as players and develop into a cohesive unit. She said the Mountain Hawks are now a team that opponents are nervous to compete against.

While she never had the opportunity to be a key player for the team on the field, Arancio said she is just happy she can contribute to the team in another form. Renda said this is completely in line with Arancio’s selfless character. Her commitment to helping the team grow showed in another form during her fourth and final year with the team.

Now a senior, Arancio made another transition and currently occupies the team’s backup goalie position, even though she didn’t have any prior experience in the goal.

Dallmeyer said when Arancio heard the team was looking for a backup goalkeeper and sensed the stress and urgency in the coaches’ voices, she didn’t hesitate before stepping up to help the team in any way she could.

“Even though playing field hockey isn’t exactly what makes her happy anymore, just being with the team is what makes her happy,” Renda said. “Helping the team is exactly what she wanted to do and just doing that proves again and again how she is the most selfless player.”

Arancio said by moving back into the goal, she was able to provide the other goalkeepers, sophomore Paige Innarella and freshman Emma Gromacki, with support when they needed it most.

“(Gromacki) and (Innarella) have been super welcoming to me coming into the goalie role,” Arancio said, “and they’ve taught me so much in a short month, so I’m also really appreciative of them, especially because they’re so young but so skilled.”

Arancio said she’s become extremely close with all of her teammates — not just the goalies, but especially her class — and is grateful for how supportive the players, her coaches and trainer have been through her many different roles over the years.

While Dallmeyer wasn’t the coach who recruited Arancio and didn’t get the chance to work with her before her injury, she said the senior has been a great teammate from day one and is quick to offer help when it is needed. She added that Arancio is someone who is able to recognize problems and start figuring them out before others even realize there are problems that need solving.

Dallmeyer said Arancio has been a great asset to the field hockey program in all three of her roles.

“(Arancio) is the definition of a team-first player,” Renda said. “She’s always giving everything she has to make other people happy and sometimes I think she forgets about what even makes her the most happy. She has a great relationship with everyone on the team. Everyone goes to her when they want to get pumped up. She has such great energy. She is always being positive about everything.”

Last year, Arancio won the Mountain Hawk award, which Renda said confirms the fact that she embodies the traits the team looks for in its players.

While Arancio is fully healed from her ACL injury, she said her knee still aches and bothers her on rainy days.

However, instead of letting her past consume her life, Arancio looks toward the future and aspires to be a physical therapist one day.

“I want to be able to help those who have gone through something similar to me,” she said.

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