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Rotonnelli chooses UMass-Lowell

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Meredith's Caitlin Rotonnelli (15), seen her playing for Inter-Lakes High School last fall, verbally committed to Division I UMass-Lowell last month. The rising junior will transfer to Tilton School for two years before moving on to Lowell. File Photo. (click for larger version)
August 04, 2014
MEREDITH As the fall season quickly approaches, Caitlin Rotonnelli will have one less thing to worry about amongst the sea of double and triple teams.

The Meredith resident and rising junior verbally committed to play collegiately at Division I University of Massachusetts-Lowell last month. The former Inter-Lakes High School standout forward will first take her talents to the prep level this fall for her final two years of high school, as she will transfer to Tilton School before moving to Lowell in the fall of 2016 as a member of the Class of 2020.

"I didn't really have a timeline (in making a verbal commitment), but it feels good to have something under my belt," said Rotonnelli. "You know college coaches would be watching you every game going forward... there are no words to describe it, it's so scary to play with that kind of pressure. So I think it'll definitely be a lot easier to just relax and play my game with the decision behind me."

Rotonnelli will join a UMass-Lowell program that just made the move from Division II to Division I in 2013. The River Hawks struggled in their first D-I season, picking up their lone win of the season against America East Conference foe Maryland Baltimore-County (3-2). New coach Joel Bancroft takes over this fall after being an assistant last season, and Rotonnelli said she liked what the head coach had to say about the program.

"He's looking to build the program and it's nice because he's so enthusiastic about it all," said Rotonnelli. "I think it's exciting because it's still such a new program and we're all going to be able to make our mark."

UMass-Lowell is scheduled to play the likes of Syracuse, Harvard, Dartmouth and Northeastern in its non-conference schedule this fall. The squad plays its home games at Cushing Field in Lowell.

"I wanted to go to school somewhat close but outside of New Hampshire and I've got some family in that area so it's a good fit," Rotonnelli explained. "I didn't tell my friends during the entire (recruiting) process, that's just how I've always been. And I don't think until this year I ever really thought that I could be a Division I player. I'm a confident player on the field but off the field, you never really think it's going to come true until it does."

Rotonnelli filled up the stat sheet during her two years at Inter-Lakes, as she scored 70 goals in leading the Lakers to back-to-back postseason appearances. She scored 26 goals as a freshman, guiding the team to 10 victories after the program went five seasons without a single win. She followed that up with 44 goals (including 12 hat tricks) during her sophomore year in 2013, lighting up opposing defenses despite seeing a plethora of double and triple teams. I-L won 12 games last fall, hosting a playoff game in Meredith for the first time in program history.

She made the decision this spring to transfer to Tilton and play for coach Scott Rowling. The Rams went 7-10-3 in the Lakes Region League in 2013, and Rotonnelli will join fellow Meredith residents Amanda and Madison Downs on the squad.

"It wasn't just soccer, it was academics as well," said Rotonnelli on her decision to go the prep route. "At this point, that's really what is important looking ahead to college. I know a lot of people who go to Tilton already as well so that'll help the adjustment."

Rotonnelli had a busy summer making her college decision, as she traveled with her Nashua World Cup club team to South Carolina where the team took third in a national tournament. She visited several Division I campuses in narrowing down her list, with Manhattan and Siena amongst the final choices. Iona College wound up being Rotonnelli's number two choice, as she really liked the campus and the coach but ultimately chose UMass-Lowell for many reasons.

"One of the main things was that I wanted to be smart about the financial part of it," Rotonnelli explained. "The one thing I promised myself was that I would repay my parents by getting money towards school... that was important to me. They've paid for everything for me with all the teams and travel over the years."

With the college decision now behind her, Rotonnelli is gearing up for a new challenge in a new school this fall. But if the past few years are any indication, opposing teams should be the ones gearing up for her.

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