When Allie Stewart’s dad dropped her off for her first varsity girls lacrosse workout, he almost had to literally drop her off.
Stewart was a talented seventh-grader who was asked by Lancaster coach Julie Buccieri to work out with the varsity during their Monday night winter sessions. Still, she was a seventh grader and walking into that gym was understandably intimidating.
“I was really scared,” Stewart said. “I shed a tear going in there – I never told anyone that, just my dad and my coach. My dad almost had to pick me up and put me in the gym.”
Stewart reflected this week on what was the start of a very accomplished lacrosse career, one that includes two All-America selections, four All-Western New York first-team selections, five Section VI championships and – come Wednesday night – the Tom Borrelli Memorial Award as the top senior female lacrosse player in Western New York.
The Borrelli Awards banquet will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant in Blasdell. The inaugural event is presented by the Buffalo Bandits and supported by The News, Jaros & Jaros, and ADPRO Sports.
Stewart, who will play at Canisius College next year after verbally committing as a sophomore, was also looking back on her career this week for a different reason. It was only natural as she is currently coaching a group of seventh- and eighth-grade players.
“I was just saying to Gabe” Kotas, a former Lancaster teammate who is coaching the youngsters with Stewart, “I couldn’t imagine one of them playing with varsity players now, and I couldn’t imagine me at that level and being able to be called up.”
The faith that Buccieri had in Stewart by inviting her to that Monday workout way back when was justified. Stewart became a pivotal player for Lancaster’s powerful teams from those first varsity years, and she capped her Section VI career with an excellent all-around performance in a 10-8 title game victory over rival Frontier. Stewart won draw controls, set up talented junior forward Grace Gabriel with superb passes, and contributed a pair of goals of her own in a six-point performance.
“I play middie, so when I get the ball on defense, I want to make the most of when we have possession,” Stewart said. “If we’re down, I want the ball in the net, so I’m going to do everything I can to do it.”
Stewart, who received The News Prep Talk Player of the Year award for girls lacrosse last week, had 55 goals and a team-high 34 assists in her senior season for Lancaster (15-4). She is Lancaster’s all-time leader in goals (231) and assists (168) and is fifth in ground balls (293).
“I really do thank her,” Stewart said of Buccieri. “I don’t think I would be the person I am today.”
Stewart will attempt to continue experiencing a winning tradition as she moves from Lancaster to Canisius, which has won four straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championships under coach Scott Teeter, with Lancaster grad Maria Kotas a leading contributor.
This is the fourth year of the girls’ Borrelli Award. Last year’s winner, Megan Mikolajek of Hamburg, followed Julia Suriani (West Seneca East) in 2011 and Spring Sanders (Nichols) in 2012. Award winners are selected by The Borrelli committee after consultation with local scouts and coaches.
Stewart was chosen from a talented field which included Jill Ford of Hamburg, Alie Jimerson of Lake Shore, Emily Bitka of Amherst and Hannah Lease of Frontier.
Borrelli, a News sports reporter and editor, died Nov. 20, 2008 of injuries suffered less than two weeks earlier when he fell down the press box stairway at All High Stadium while covering a high school football game. As a tribute to Borrelli and the sport he loved, a committee led by News’ Bob DiCesare established the Tom Borrelli Memorial Award and Scholarship Fund.
In 2012, the Borrelli committee added the “Ox” Awards, which go to seniors who display the talent, versatility, hard work, dedication and toughness displayed by Borrelli – whose nickname was “Ox.”
Lancaster senior Rachel Heidenreich is this year’s “Ox” winner. An All-American last year who is headed to Albany on scholarship, Heidenreich could not play her senior season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered during the winter. However, she remained committed to her sport – and her team (as an unofficial assistant coach) — despite the injury.
The boys winners will be announced in Wednesday’s News.
To make a donation to the Borrelli fund, send a check payable to the Tom Borrelli Memorial Fund, c/o Bob DiCesare, Buffalo News Sports, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, 14240.