Confident and congenial, Tara Lamberti stands proud at 5’4”, the shortest goalie and only Division III player in the country to be invited to the U.S. National Field Hockey Trials this month. The First Team All-American has compiled a myriad of accolades during her collegiate career. The senior led the league in shutouts this season and earned recognition as the Liberty League Defensive Player of the Year, but this invitation to take her talents to the next level is her claim to fame.
Passing up opportunities to play at the Division I level, Lamberti chose UR to better balance academics, athletics, and social life, in addition to wholeheartedly embracing our university’s motto. “If you ask anyone, I’m obsessed with Meliora,” said Lamberti. “I even have a Meliora tattoo.”
When top athletes choose to play Division III, most believe that they are sacrificing their potential to excel. Lamberti refused to accept this rationale. “She works harder than anyone on the team,” said freshman teammate Nancy Bansbach. “Passion and Meliora are two words that describe her the best. She is Meliora.”
The trials, held at the United States National Team training headquarters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, were “the hardest and most fun thing of my life,” Lamberti said. “I did not know a soul.”
Walking into the USA media room to converge with elite athletes from all over the country, Lamberti was initially intimidated by the reputable Division I schools represented in the room. Upon seeing “University of Rochester” humbly printed on Lamberti’s hoodie, the group’s mutual expression of surprise and confusion seemed to say, “Who is this person that got lost in our room?”
Lamberti soon cleared up this misconception by showing what she was made of in the cage with her remarkable reflexes and athleticism. “I definitely don’t think I’m at an international level, but with the top Division I players, I easily held my own,” said Lamberti. “I think I firmly established that I’m one of the top goalkeepers in collegiate play.”
The athletes were shown film and told, “This is what USA field hockey looks like. We want to see if you can implement it.” Their ability to actualize international level of play was then tested in a simulated game. The National Team was brought in for one practice to see how the top collegiate athletes in the country measured up.
Given the opportunity to play with the National Team, Lamberti was challenged with hundreds of shots fired at speeds she had never faced before. One of the 80-mile-per-hour projectiles from U.S. National Team veteran Rachel Dawson was powerful enough to crack Lamberti’s face mask. “These are the top D-I athletes in the country, and as soon as the National Team comes in, they make them look like children,” said Lamberti. “It was incredible to watch them play, but also humbling and scary at the same time.”
Lamberti’s potential as a National Team athlete was acknowledged as she was recommended to try out for USA Field Hockey High Performance, a national-level developmental program. Lamberti’s performance at the trials earned her an opportunity to train with some of the country’s top coaches and grow as an athlete in training sessions over the summer, and then be reevaluated after the program ends. “It’s the perfect transition point and the next step for me,” she said.
As an embodiment of Meliora, Lamberti has established a legacy of incredible work ethic and passion. “She’ll leave behind the Meliora spirit because that’s who she is,” Bansbach said. “She’s unforgettable.”