Ali DeLuca is to the Penn women's lacrosse team what Mike Richards is to the Flyers.
Her worth to the Quakers, much like Richards', goes far beyond the box score, in the form of her innate ability to thrive in different situations - both offensively and defensively - and, of course, to lead by example.
Those intangibles have earned DeLuca the respect of her teammates and coaches.
However,her statistics alone garnered DeLuca, the 2010 Ivy League player of the year, a nomination for college lacrosse's version of the Heisman Trophy.
DeLuca, a senior midfielder who leads Penn in goals (40), assists (25), points (65), draw controls (34), groundballs (26) and caused turnovers (18), was selected as the university's first-ever finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, presented annually to the top male and top female collegiate lacrosse players.
"It means a lot to me," said DeLuca, who has scored a Quakers career-record 140 goals. "It's a huge honor to be nominated."
"I'm really excited for her," said Penn coach Karin Brower Corbett. "She's just such a great player and she's worked really hard over the last 4 years."
DeLuca, whose 202 career points rank second all-time at Penn, was not a highly recruited player coming out of Hillsborough High in central New Jersey. She chose to attend Penn over Brown, where her older sister, Krystina, played.
"It's not that I didn't like playing with my older sister," DeLuca said. "I just wanted to make my own name."
Has she ever. Her impact was immediate. In her freshman year, in 2007, DeLuca was named the Ivy League's Rookie of the Year. Topping it off, however, was DeLuca leading Penn, not only into its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1984, but to the Final Four. To show that the run was not a fluke, the Quakers reached three straight Final Fours, falling to eventual champion Northwestern each time.
DeLuca and her fellow seniors will embark on their final opportunity to capture the elusive title tomorrow (1 p.m.) in the first round of the NCAAs, when they take on ninth-seeded Boston University, a familiar opponent, at Immaculata University in Malvern. Penn has already faced BU twice in the last three tournaments, knocking out the Terriers both times.
"Ever since our freshman year, we've had a desire to win it all," DeLuca said. "At this point, we want to get it and we deserve it, especially for our senior class. It would mean the world to us."
Penn (14-3), seeded eighth, should be playing at Franklin Field, but commencement has forced the relocation.
"We're used to it," said Brower Corbett, whose team has played on Penn's soccer field and on Drexel's Vidas Field in past years for the same reason. "This field has the same type of turf we have on our home field. And I think there's going to be a great atmosphere."
DeLuca was set to walk at graduation tomorrow night, but will be chasing Terriers instead. She'll graduate with a communications degree and is leaning toward working for a pharmaceutical company.
"I didn't expect to do the things I've done," she said. "But I think our freshman class just had a strong desire to win and I think we've seen that as I've been here my past 3 years."
DeLuca is trying to finish her career with a bang. Like Richards, she's trying to will her team to that championship trophy.
For the fourth straight season, the Cabrini men's lacrosse team, seeded eighth, will play in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament tomorrow (1 p.m.) at No. 1 Stevenson, in Owings Mills, Md.