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Sisters Lulu (left) and Sophia (right) Cardello.

Cardellos in Cage: Sisters Lulu, Sophia Square Off in Rare Occurrence

April 3, 2024
Kenny DeJohn
Lee Weissman / Hofstra & Rutgers Athletics

Bill Cardello has been calling it his Super Bowl ever since the Hofstra and Rutgers women’s lacrosse schedules were announced in the fall. 

It’s a moment he had only dreamed could happen when his daughters, Sophia and Luchianna (Lulu), grew up in Massapequa, N.Y. On Wednesday at 6 p.m. Eastern, his daughters will go toe-to-toe in a Division I women’s lacrosse game — as opposing goalies.

A rare occurrence, for sure. And one that’s sure to be memorable for the entire Cardello family.

“Since our schedules came out, this day has been marked on our family calendar,” said Sophia Cardello, a senior at Rutgers. “Since high school, my dad has always said, ‘I hope you guys play each other in college.’ This is my last year, and it worked out in our favor.”

Lulu Cardello, a sophomore and two-year starter at Hofstra whose own improvements have mirrored the steps forward taken by the Pride in 2024, has always wanted to be just like her older sister.

She copied everything Sophia did — typical bevahior of a younger sibling, of course. When Sophia strapped on the goalie pads, so did Lulu and their middle sister, Julianna (who eventually gravitated toward softball). Their old practice sessions at the local field or in the backyard were equal parts constructive and playfully infuriating for the Hofstra goalie, who admitted to “storming off” quite often.

“They usually ended in me storming off because she was critiquing me,” Lulu said. “But now I look back, and I’m thankful for them. She was correct. It pains me to say that.”

There’s a loving, competitive bond between the sisters, who will join the likes of Laurie (Delaware) and Elizabeth Tortorelli (Penn State) as sisters to play in the same game as opposing goalies. The Tortorellis did it in May 2002.

In January 2022, Kevin and Steven Orleman suited up against each other in the National Lacrosse League, marking the first time in professional sports in over 40 years that brothers played each other as opposing goalies.

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The occurrence is a novelty — and one that isn’t lost on the Cardello family. They had shirts made that are half Hofstra and half Rutgers to commemorate the occasion.

“I think, secretly, they’re rooting for me,” Lulu joked.

“God bless those parents,” Hofstra head coach Shannon Smith said. “I don’t know how Bill and Alyse do it, having two daughters who are starting Division I goalies. That has to take a toll on you as a parent.”

It helps when both are successful. Sophia has started every game since the final seven of her freshman season, going 32-24 as the Rutgers starter. She helped the Scarlet Knights to historic success in 2022.

Lulu took over for Hofstra all-timer Jess Smith and has blossomed in year two, stopping 50.3 percent of shots.

Sophia and Lulu still share a room back home. They also share a propensity for frustrating offenses.

“It’s different from any other relationship I’ve ever had in this sport,” Lulu said. “Of course I wanted to be playing [in high school], but it was an honor to learn from her. It was never a battle between the two of us because I was always happy to learn more.”

Don’t expect a gushy love affair in Piscataway, though. It’s all business for two teams very much jockeying for NCAA tournament inclusion. Hofstra is 7-4 (4-0 CAA), and Rutgers is 5-6 (0-4 Big Ten).

Rutgers leads the all-time series with Hofstra 23-10 but hasn’t played the Pride since March 25, 2016.

“She’s been heating up,” Sophia said of her youngest sister. “She’s doing really well this season, and I’m super proud of her. But tomorrow, it’s just about [Rutgers]. We have to get on the field and dial ourselves in.

“At the end of the day, we’re family. But tomorrow, we’re enemies.”

To that end, Sophia’s been unofficially leading the scout against her sister. Lulu has done the same for the Pride.

They’ll be watching the gameplan come to fruition from opposite creases, some 100 yards apart.

“We’re just going to feed off each other’s energy and try to get one when the other one doesn’t,” Lulu said.

They’re both excited. You can hear it when they talk about the dream-come-true game that will last two-plus hours but be over in the blink of an eye.

Well, maybe not for their father. It might feel like an eternity as he watches anxiously from the stands of SHI Stadium.

“He’s been talking about it all year,” Lulu said. “I think he’s a little nervous. He said he’s hoping for a 0-0 tie.”