January 5, 2012

LM NCAA Division II Women's Preseason Player of the Year: Erica Devito

Expectations Remain High at Adelphi

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Erica Devito was among Adelphi team leaders that met with new coach Rob Grella this offseason and determined the Panthers dynasty was in good hands after the departure of Joe Spallina.
© Lee Weissman

Four years ago, Erica Devito whittled her college choices down to a short list that included Adelphi and Stony Brook. She chose Adelphi. She chose wisely. The Panthers captured NCAA championships in each of her first three seasons and Devito took home All-American honors each year.

Last summer, she was forced to choose again. Joe Spallina, the coach who brought Devito to Adelphi, accepted a job at Stony Brook. Four players and three recruits followed him to the Division I school on the other side of Long Island.

Devito never hesitated. Her decision, she said, was even easier the second time around.

"It was never an option," she said. "I love it here. I love the girls on this team. A huge reason why I came to Adelphi was because of Spallina. I love Spallina, but I really fell in love with the school."

And so Adelphi, in the midst of drastic changes, retained a senior captain and its leading goal scorer. Devito finished the 2011 season ranked third in Division II in goals (77) and fourth in points (106).

"Erica's one of the best kids you're going to get," said Rob Grella, the Adelphi alum chosen as the program's new head coach in July. "This is a great opportunity for her. She's played with a lot of great players, now she has to elevate her team. It's not as easy, but did it in the fall."

Devito provides a steadying presence to a team that features 13 freshmen and sophomores after a nerve-wracking offseason.

"It was really chaotic," Devito said. "Everyone's saying, 'I don't know what to do.' There were so many rumors. I was very upset. Were we even going to have a team?"

Devito remained convinced Adelphi would find the right coach, and she said once Grella accepted the job, things settled down.

"The captains met with Grella and got word out that we were in good hands," Devito said. "I think it put a huge responsibility on us to put everything together and tell everyone it's going to be okay."

Still, it has been an adjustment. Devito's college career has featured just one regular season loss. Even when the Panthers fell to Division I Johns Hopkins at the Colleluori Classic last fall, it was unfamiliar territory. It didn't matter that they had only had two days of practice. Losing stung.

"It was like somebody had taken something away from us," Grella said. "It's a huge adjustment. But when they started to understand exactly what we were doing, and believing in us, it just started to click."

The Hopkins loss became a turning point. Devito said it would be an experience to draw upon when, or if, Adelphi loses a game this spring.

"I wish we could have played that game at the end of the season, because we progressed so well," Devito said. "We hadn't experienced that before. We hadn't experienced what it was like to lose. We don't want to feel like that again."

Not losing will be tougher this year. North region rivals Le Moyne, Dowling and C.W. Post should all be better.

"I know we'll be there in the end," Devito said. "We'll stay determined."

Focus won't be a problem for Devito.

"She has great character. She's not satisfied," Grella said. "She wants to be a four-time All-American. She wants to win a fourth championship."

LaxMagazine.com WD2 PPOY Fan Vote

Raquel Prager, Limestone

Brittany Brigandi, LeMoyne

Erica Devito, Adelphi

Brooke Witkowski, Dowling

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