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Women's lacrosse senior defender Alex Gambacorta is one of five on the team to have attended Loyola Academy, a Jesuit high school in suburban Chicago

Loyola Academy becomes main feeder school in Midwest for women’s lacrosse

By Meghan Rock, Sports Staff Writer - Marquette Wire, 04/25/18, 4:15PM EDT

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The women’s lacrosse team is a tight-knit group, but five players in particular are even closer than the others by virtue of having played together before they got to Marquette. Mary Dooley, Laine Dolan, Alex Gambacorta, Madison Kane and Erin Dowdle all came to Milwaukee from the same high school: Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.

Defenders Gambacorta and Dolan grew up together on the city’s outskirts and played two years of lacrosse together at Loyola Academy. The two players have always been close because all their extended family also attended Loyola Academy.

“We grew up carpooling because we lived so close,” Gambacorta said.

“We went to the same grade school and went to church all the time,” Dolan said.

Dolan and Gambacorta picked up a tenacious playing style from Loyola coach John Dwyer and that attitude has transferred over to Marquette, where head coach Meredith Black has been able to refine it. Both players have played in all 32 games this season, a major accomplishment for players coming from an area where lacrosse isn’t a big part of the culture.

“With Chicago kids, a lot of them do come in as a little less developed lacrosse players, but very developed athletes,” assistant coach Caitlin Fifield said. “We don’t expect them to be fine-tuned when they get here.”

What Loyola players may lack in traditional lacrosse pedigree, they make up for in work ethic, which has helped the Ramblers rattle off nine consecutive Illinois state championship titles. The pressure of upholding that legacy prepared Loyola players to put in the extra work to climb the depth charts.

“I’ve noticed across the board that all of the girls who come from Loyola are ready and willing to work,” Dolan said. “Especially because, coming from Illinois, we don’t really have the skill set that some of the girls from the east coast have because they’ve grown up with this sport.”

Dwyer and Black’s similar coaching style allows players to make a relatively seamless transition. Both coaches emphasize player development over immediate proficiency and trust that ceaseless effort will turn players into the best versions of themselves.

“Black sees (effort) is at the forefront of what we care about and what we do,” Gambacorta said. “Not necessarily being a starter right out of the gates, but being able to grow as a player and hustle and try your best.”

Nowhere is Loyola’s go-getter attitude more evident than in Dolan’s progress during her time at Marquette.

“When Laine came in, we did not think she would contribute like the way she does now,” Fifield said. “She was definitely in the bottom of the depth chart and has worked her way to one of our best defenders.”

Even though 21 of the team’s 33 players hail from states on the Eastern seaboard, the Midwestern presence from Loyola Academy has been invaluable for Marquette as it tries to clinch its first BIG EAST Tournament berth in program history.

“It’s been really cool to mix these different regions of the country and kind of see how the lacrosse comes together,” Fifield said.