After she was a three-sport standout in high school, Dene' DiMartino chose to focus on lacrosse in college. The New York native joined the Johns Hopkins women's lacrosse team as a freshman in 2013, and immediately made an impact.
In DiMartino's first season, she tallied 35 goals en route to being named the American Lacrosse Conference's Rookie of the Year. The midfielder elevated her game as a sophomore, and finished second on the team with 49 goals, including 15 free-position goals, which set a new school record.
With two strong seasons behind her, DiMartino is already off to a hot start in 2015. She has notched 11 goals through the team's first five games to lead the way for the Blue Jays.
DiMartino was recently named to the Tewaaraton award watch list, which is an award given to the best college lacrosse player in the nation. PressBox caught up with DiMartino to talk about the recognition, her sports career before Johns Hopkins and her success on eight-meter shots.
DENE' DIMARTINO: I started playing in seventh grade. I played soccer all my life, so I was never really a lacrosse player. And then, a bunch of my friends started playing, and they were like, "You should start playing." I just did it kind of for fun, and then, I guess, it got serious from there.
PB: So when would you say it first started to get serious?
DD: Probably freshman year of high school.
PB: You played soccer and basketball in high school as well. Did you consider playing either of those sports in college?
DD: I loved basketball. Basketball was one of my favorite sports as well as lacrosse, but I was never really as good in basketball, I guess, as I was in lacrosse, so I knew lacrosse was probably going to be the sport I was going to play. But if I had an opportunity to pursue basketball, I might've pursued that, who knows. But I do love basketball.
PB: So would you say basketball is your passion, but lacrosse is more of what you're good at it? Or has lacrosse become your passion?
DD: I think lacrosse is my passion. Basketball is something I did for fun, and I loved playing it because it was more up-and-down in a more confined area. I liked that aspect of the game. But I love lacrosse as well. I mean, I think lacrosse is my passion, and it helps when you are good at it.
PB: Last year, you set the school record for free position goals. What would you attribute that success to?
DD: I think Coach [Janine] Tucker really helped me with that. I was never really good at my free position shots. So I remember freshman year, she pulled me over to the side, and we did individuals a ton. She would film me doing what I would do, and then she would let me watch that, and then correct me on it. Then, we would go back out, and I would make the corrections. That really, really helped. Since then, we have always done that. We have always worked on eight meters after practice before games. So I think I can attribute it to her, because she's helped me a lot with that.
PB: What's going through your mind when you're lining up and looking at the goalie?
DD: I look around and see if I have a defender on my left and not on my right, stuff like that. Or if I have two defenders on each side of me. You have to think about those things, and how you are going to get an angle to the goal. But really, you can't really think about too many things because everything happens so fast. So you just have to know what you know, go with your gut and then just hope you find net.
PB: So when would you say you made the transition from it maybe not being a strength in your game to now it certainly is?
DD: I would say probably last year it became a strength. I know me and Coach Tucker were talking that I am probably going to get fouled a lot since I like to dodge, so she said, "If you're going to be put on the line, then you got to finish your shots." And that's totally right. So I think practicing it a lot, it became my strength last year, because I was on the line a lot.
PB: You were recently named to the Tewaaraton watch list. What does that mean to you?
DD: That's a huge accomplishment. Just being one of the top 50 players in the country and being on that list with so many amazing players, it's an honor that I'm even associated with those kind of players. So I mean, that's awesome, and it's obviously a goal that anyone would want to reach. It's cool to be on that list, and we will see how it goes from here, but I'm not really focused on that. I'm pretty focused on just making the tournament this year.
PB: So, is that the team's goal this year?
DD: For sure. I know last year, it was one of the best feelings hearing our names called for the tournament. I think that is a huge goal this year that we want to get even further than we did last year, so that's our main focus right now. How awesome that feeling was, and we want to feel that again.