Inheriting family tradition gladly Leading Dulaney attack: Nicole Wittelsberger, whose family's lacrosse legacy goes back 55 years, has scored 57 goals for the Lions.

April 28, 1996|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Some teen-agers might rebel against a family legacy. Not Nicole Wittelsberger.

The Dulaney junior couldn't be happier to carry on a family tradition that began when her grandfather, Kenneth Wittelsberger, founded the Maryland Lacrosse Club 55 years ago. Her father, Franz Wittelsberger, helped Johns Hopkins win a national championship during four years with the Blue Jays in the early '70s.

Nicole inherited their love for the game.

After transferring from McDonogh to Dulaney last fall, she has emerged as one of the area's top attack players. Her explosive moves and rocket shots have her leading the No. 11 Lions in scoring with 57 goals and 19 assists.

"People are more into lacrosse at Dulaney," said Nicole, adding that she's much more comfortable there, both academically and athletically. "In their spare time, they always want to play catch. At McDonogh, it didn't seem there were that many people into lacrosse."

With a lacrosse stick in her hand, fitting in at Dulaney was no problem. Playing soccer last fall, as well as winter league lacrosse with some of her future teammates, including fellow line attackers Dawn Will and Kelly Berzins, made the transition easier.

"We've all adapted to each other really well," said Berzins. "She's very modest. She helps lead the offense, but she isn't the total attack. We're still a team."

Will said, "It's great having her here. Now our offense has a little bit of everything. We look like we've been playing together forever."

Lions coach Anita Crotty gives Nicole a lot of the credit for the smooth transition.

"Coming in here and dominating the way she has, if she had a different personality and she was cocky about it, it would just ruin the team," said Crotty. "But she's not like that at all. She does what she can to help the team, but she's still concerned with pushing herself to be better."

It didn't take Nicole long to prove how valuable she could be to the Lions. In the first game, she scored six goals, including the game-winner with six seconds left, to beat Catonsville, 16-15. The Lions trailed 14-9 with eight minutes left, and Nicole scored three of the last six Dulaney goals.

"We would not have won that game without her," said Crotty. "She's an amazing finisher and we really needed that. She's brought a real excitement to our game with the way she's playing. Her goals are beautiful, and she's a smart shooter."

Nicole still gets a lot of advice from her father, who coaches the Lions JV and helps with the varsity team. Despite the family resume, Nicole said her father never pushed her to play.

"I didn't even start out playing lacrosse," said Nicole, who has already drawn the attention of some college coaches. "I started with softball, but I hated that, so then I started playing lacrosse in the fourth grade. He's always coached me in rec, and he's always been very supportive."

These days she's likely to be more critical of her game than he is.

"She'll come out of a game," said her father, Franz "after she had five goals and some assists and say, 'Did I play well?' and I'll say, 'Nicole, you played great.' She sets really high standards for herself, which is great, but if you don't reach that goal, it doesn't mean that you haven't done a good job."

Nicole is certainly not the last of the lacrosse-playing Wittelsbergers. Her three siblings, Marlena, 14, and twins Lauren and Eric, 13, all play. Marlena will arrive at Dulaney next year.

They all will make sure the legacy lives on.

Pub Date: 4/28/96

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