College decisions are not always easy for student-athletes, but for Sophia Ruocco, a Bel Air High School senior, the choice was quite simple.
“Overall, picking Alvernia was an easy choice, because it’s a small campus,” Ruocco said. “As soon as I got on campus, I felt like I was meant to be there and I got along really well with the coach. We meshed really well, she was easy to talk to and the girls on the team are really nice.”
Ruocco will attend Alvernia University, a Division III school located in Reading, PA, where she will play lacrosse.
“They also have a really, really good teaching program. It’s small, so I can get to know my professors, I’ll get to know my professors really well,” Ruocco said. “And I’ll get to know my classmates really well, but then I’ll be able to graduate knowing that I learned as much as I could for the field that I’m entering.”
Ruocco, whose father Tony Rucco is the Athletic Director at Kenwood High School, plans to study early childhood education and special education. There are many educators in her family and she’s following the footsteps.
Ruocco is a good student who maintains about a 4.25 weighted GPA. “I’m in a lot of AP and honors classes and then I’m also involved in my school. I do push myself academically, but I also like to stay involved,” Ruocco said. Ruocco is involved in multiple clubs at Bel Air and they meet virtually regularly.
Ruocco is a member of the National Honor Society, she‘s Class Secretary and a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Leader.
Rucco recently learned that she has been awarded a very substantial merit-based Academic Scholarship from Alvernia.
But there’s also lacrosse and Ruocco comes from an athletic family as well. Mom Rachel, dad Tony and an uncle all played Division I lacrosse and another uncle played Division III lacrosse. Ruocco’s grandfather, Joe Ruocco, coached Division II football at Mansfield University. He was a wide receivers coach.
“I chose Alvernia as a D-III lacrosse program. I can still continue my lacrosse career and make a difference on the team. I can take the time to focus on school, because I’m a student-athlete, Ruocco said. “I will also get the opportunity to study abroad, while also getting to play lacrosse.”
Despite the easy choice, Ruocco did look at others.
“I mostly looked at schools in the same area, because I didn’t want to be, too, far from home. I looked at Widener University and Neumann University and they also have really good lacrosse programs, really good teaching programs, but it just didn’t feel as right as Alvernia,” she said.
Ruocco has been playing lacrosse since she was 5 and in addition to playing at Bel Air, she is a long-time member of Looney’s Lacrosse Club. Ruocco is a midfielder.
Will she step in and play at Alvernia as a freshman? “That’s my hope, is to be able to play and to make an impact on the team as a freshman,” Ruocco said. “Obviously, I’m going to have to work to prove myself there, cause it’s a college program. But I do think I have a chance to make a big impact and be able to play my freshman year.”
At Bel Air, Ruocco, like many athletes, is hoping to have a senior season. “I think it’s just like closing a chapter, I started playing lacrosse at Bel Air freshman year,” Ruocco said. She played two years with the JV team and then was really excited to play varsity in her junior year, but it was wiped out by the COVID pandemic.
“Really excited to play, we had a good group of girls, but unfortunately we didn’t get that,” Ruocco said. “I think just getting to have a senior season is just to prove to everyone that we’re Bel Air and we can keep up and it will be like officially closing the chapter.”
Unfortunately there is a chance the senior season won’t happen. “It would be unfortunate, it would be disappointing to not get to finish it off. Especially, considering we didn’t get to have last year. I think it will be a little bit easier to not have this season if we were able to play last season,” Ruocco said. “I think it’s a little bit easier to grasp, considering I still have four more years ahead of me to play lacrosse.”
And lacrosse may not end with those four years of college. ”I love lacrosse, it’s been such a big part of my life. I would love to be able to coach, whether that’s a high school team, a club team or anything,” she said. “I love working with kids, so I would love to keep lacrosse in my life even after my four years of college.”