The daughter of two University of Maryland graduates, South River’s Kacie Longo has attended sporting events in College Park all her life, but she followed the Terrapin women’s lacrosse team with special interest last spring.
By the time Maryland beat Loyola on May 19 to clinch its fourth consecutive NCAA final four appearance, Longo had made up her mind. Not long after the team had finished celebrating on its home field, the speedy midfielder found Coach Cathy Reese to offer her oral commitment.
“I knew I wanted to do it,” said Longo, now a junior. “I’ve always wanted to go to Maryland, and I thought it was the right time.”
Though not binding until she signs a letter of intent next year, Longo’s pledge in her mind signaled the end of a difficult decision – not between schools, but sports.
Longo has emerged as one of the area’s most dangerous finishers on the soccer field this fall. The forward leads the Seahawks with 28 goals heading into Friday’s Maryland 4A South final against four-time defending state champ Bethesda-Chevy Chase at UMBC.
Because of the difference in the common recruiting period between the sports, Longo never had the opportunity to fully gauge interest in her opportunities to play collegiate soccer, which generally starts the recruiting process in earnest during a player’s junior season.
“I knew I had to make one decision,” said Longo, who had 34 goals and seven assists last spring for the county champion South River girls’ lacrosse team. “Because ultimately, you can’t be the very best at one [sport] if you have two to worry about.”
Longo, a Davidsonville resident, grew up playing lacrosse, soccer and basketball in Anne Arundel County youth leagues. She dropped basketball in middle school and essentially made the choice to pursue lacrosse at the next level when she joined a more competitive club team after her freshman year.
Longo continues to play club soccer as well, and she said her favorite sport currently depends on the season. Despite her success on the pitch this fall, she said she receives much more mail from other college lacrosse programs than interested college soccer programs because of her commitment.
Though NCAA rules keep coaches from reaching out to players via written correspondence before Sept. 1 of their junior year, players are allowed to contact coaches and speak with them on campus before that.
In recent years, it’s become common for the top men’s and women’s lacrosse programs to begin filling up their recruiting classes with commitments before the most-sought players finish their sophomore seasons. U.S. Lacrosse, the sport’s national governing body, released a statement in October encouraging coaches to push for a recruiting model that better serves the athletes.
“I could see she really fell in love with playing lacrosse at the University of Maryland,” said her father Ed Longo, whose other daughter Kelly is a freshman reserve for the Seahawks. “If she had absolutely all the choices in the world, I think that’s what she would end up choosing again.”
Nonetheless, Longo has provided the offensive boost her soccer team needed to reach its first state title game appearance since 2004.
Longo scored two goals, including the game-tying tally with 40 seconds left in regulation, in South River’s 3-2 double-overtime win over Arundel in Tuesday’s Maryland 4A East title game. She followed that up with three more goals on Saturday in a 4-0 state semifinal victory against Bowie.
Buoyed by a potent combination of speed and athleticism that translates easily to both sports, Longo tries not to think ahead to a time without soccer. South River girls’ soccer coach John Sis is quick to remind her that she still has a chance to reconsider.
“Trust me, I’m still trying to change her mind,” Sis joked. “We’ve offered all sorts [of incentives] to [persuade her to stick with soccer], but it hasn’t worked. I still have a year, so I’m not quitting yet.”