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Tess Calabria has the stick skills to wow at any level.

Tess Calabria Named Northeast Girls' Player of the Year

June 17, 2024
Dylan Butler
Monica Niwa / @sideline_capture

Before becoming the St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) head coach, Darcy Messina was aware of Tess Calabria.

It was hard not to be. Calabria was a household name in Long Island lacrosse circles, but her highlights online, albeit next level, only spoke to a portion of Calabria’s greatness.

Then came the “optional” 6 a.m. offseason workouts.

“She was a senior captain who certainly led by example,” Messina said. “And what I mean by that is being the first to arrive to a 6 a.m. practice and also communicating to others and encouraging them to attend. To coordinate and develop her as a head coach this year was certainly better than any highlight reel that I saw of her on the internet.”

Calabria showed a glimpse of what was to come this spring by scoring the overtime winner on a free position shot to lead St. Anthony’s to the ILWomen Indoor National Championship at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Manheim, Pa., in January.

And then this spring, the North Carolina-bound senior attacker had 75 goals and 39 assists to help the Friars complete an undefeated season and finish No. 1 in the country, earning USA Lacrosse High School Girls’ Northeast Player of the Year honors.

USA Lacrosse writers select the regional and national players of the year with input from coaches in their respective regions of coverage.

“She’s a unique triple threat. She’s a great player, she’s a great leader leading by example and she’s a great communicator leader,” Messina said. “I think of somebody with her caliber of talent being a goal scorer; she’s also a feeder and she wants her teammates to have the moments of success and putting the ball in the back of the net. And that’s the type of dynamic athlete that she is, how she’s wired … she empowers every player on the field and the sidelines and she certainly empowers me as the head coach.”

That leadership started with her father, Steve, who played football at Colgate. It was further honed by a series of captains at St. Anthony’s who left their mark on Calabria, including Erin O’Grady (Michigan), Victoria Goldrick (Rutgers) and Kat McAteer (Navy).

“From when I was little, the earliest thing I can remember my dad telling me in sports is to be a leader, not a follower. That’s always been with me,” she said. “And then making St. Anthony’s varsity as a freshman, which was kind of uncommon, being able to work and play under some amazing captains, I’ll never forget what they taught me.”

Calabria’s love for lacrosse started at a young age. She and her twin brother, Luke, were the first in the family to pick up sticks. While Luke switched to a hockey stick and will play at Colgate, Tess climbed the lacrosse ladder. She went from town lacrosse in Huntington to travel ball — first with Team Elevate and then with the Yellow Jackets.

She attended St. Anthony’s games as a fifth grader, watching Hunter Roman (Boston College) and Katie DeSimone (Duke), and Calabria’s mind was made up on which high school to attend.

Calabria scored 17 goals as a freshman. Her stats, as well as her skills, would improve year after year thanks to hours of work off the field.

Her now patented deception, which includes a fake jump shot, started while training with Kylie Ohlmiller and has continued with her current trainer, Golden Ukonu.

“She’s taught me so much about deception, using your body, using your eyes,” Calabria said of Ohlmiller. “I’m so grateful for everything she did with me because she really introduced me to how to be creative with my lacrosse game.”

Calabria currently trains with St. Anthony’s teammate Lexi Zenk, her best friend and a goaltender who will also join her at North Carolina.

“[Ukonu] trains me how to fake her out, and he trains her how to stop me,” she said. “But I’m so grateful that I get to go with her. She’s an amazing goalie.”

It has resulted in what Messina describes, in a positive sense, as “controlled unpredictable chaos,” with Calabria stopping on a dime while dodging, switching hands.

“She’s deceiving with athleticism, with faking her shots. Her footwork is insanely quick, which matches the quickness of her stick,” Messina said. “So, her stick and her footwork are totally in tune, but she also can control each differently. It’s almost like she’s kind of like a pilot in the control center.”

After a knee injury cut her junior year short, and with a new coach taking over the Friars, Calabria knew the pressure was on this spring.

“We had a lot to prove, and we knew we had a big target on our back and we really wanted to do great big things,” Calabria said.

She did just that, answering the bell every game. The defining moment of her standout senior year came at Darien (Conn.) with a behind-the-back goal, while falling, in the Friars’ triple-overtime win. It was one of her three goals in the 5-4 victory.

“Tess has a slick stick with a very high IQ and is as dangerous with the ball as she is off ball,” Darien (Conn.) head coach Lisa Lindley said. “She dodges hard and is an elite finisher. UNC is getting a good one.”

Calabria’s senior season was … perfect. The Friars went 19-0, capping an undefeated season with a fifth straight CHSAA Class AA championship.

“We just had our end of the year banquet for our team, and we were all sitting there, looking back, every single person was so happy to be a part of it,” Calabria said. “It was just an incredible experience when the last whistle blew at the championship and we realized, ‘Wow, we did it.’ I couldn’t imagine my senior year of high school going any better.”

Calabria, who finished her four-year varsity career with 161 goals and 69 assists, will take her game to North Carolina, joining Chloe Humphrey (Darien) and Kaleigh Harden (New Canaan), the previous two Northeast Players of the Year.

The choice to head to Chapel Hill was a no-brainer for Calabria because she grew up a North Carolina fan.

“They have such great lacrosse tradition, and the coaches just talk so highly about the team and the team talks so highly about their experience there,” Calabria said. “I knew it was similar to my decision to go to St. Anthony’s.”

And Messina, who played at Florida, is confident Calabria has the DNA to do well for the perennial powerhouse.

“The special thing about Tess is she’s a student and a professor of the game,” Messina said. “She’s going to go into the mentality this August at Carolina ready to compete, prepared with her fitness and her talent, but certainly ready to learn from not only her fellow freshmen, but also the girls on the team in that locker room. And I think that’s the really unselfish quality about Tess.”

Tess Calabria of St. Anthony's.
Calabria will join the last two Northeast Players of the Year — Chloe Humphrey and Kaleigh Harden — at North Carolina.
Monica Niwa / @sideline_capture

Tess Calabria

School: St. Anthony’s (N.Y.)
Year: Senior
Position: Attack
2024 statistics: 75 goals, 39 assists
Also considered: Devin Livingston, Victor (N.Y); Maddie MacDonald, Noble & Greenough (Mass.); Addison Pattillo, Wilton (Conn.); Devon Russell, New Canaan (Conn.); Alexa Spallina, Mount Sinai (N.Y.); Sadie Stafford, Darien (Conn.)

St. Anthony's girls' lacrosse.
The St. Anthony's girls' lacrosse team finished 2024 undefeated at 19-0.
Monica Niwa / @sideline_capture

Final Northeast Girls' Top 10

1. St. Anthony’s (N.Y.), 19-0
2. New Canaan (Conn.), 21-1-1
3. Darien (Conn.), 16-5-1
4. Noble & Greenough (Mass.), 18-1
5. Sayville (N.Y.), 21-0
6. Sacred Heart Greenwich (Conn.), 15-3
7. Wilton (Conn.), 16-4
8. Hotchkiss School (Conn.), 14-1
9. Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.), 17-4
10. Victor (N.Y.), 19-3