It’s not quite as dramatic or high-profile as, say, the Kennedy political dynasty or the Corleone underworld empire. But the Corso field hockey era is still alive and doing just fine at Lawrence High School, as Olivia Corso starts her senior season.
The Cardinals have Corso’s older sister, Shelby, to thank for that.
“My oldest sister, Paige, went to Princeton (High) and when I was really little I used to watch her,” Corso said. “Shelby was two years older than me. She played, and she was like, ‘You’re playing, there’s no arguing,’ and at first I was like ‘No, I don’t want to play. I don’t want to do it!’ And I ended up loving it.”
So, why was Corso resistant?
“It wasn’t something I was interested in,” she said. “I thought about playing other sports like soccer or something like that. But nothing compares to it. I love it.”
And why was Shelby so persistent?
“She wanted us to continue the sister legacy,” Corso said with a laugh.
No one is happier about that than Cardinals coach Megan Errico.
“Shelby was an incredible player, and she kind of got Olivia involved; and Olivia has exceeded what her sister did,” Errico said. “I did have expectations of her, even if it wasn’t necessarily her stick skill and knowledge of the game. I knew I could teach her that. Shelby had incredible endurance, was a good athlete, a good runner and had good footwork. Olivia proved she had that right away. She also runs track. I knew something (good) was going to happen in terms of her athleticism.”
Corso has become Lawrence’s most dangerous scorer from her right wing position since joining varsity as a sophomore. While her five goals and three assists may not seem like eye-popping numbers, some of her goals have been big ones, like last year when Lawrence suffered shutout losses in its first four games.
Desperate for not just a win, but a score, the Cardinals got both in Game 5 when Corso’s goal provided a 1-0 victory over Nottingham. Even when she is not scoring, she is working hard to make sure Lawrence is getting opportunities.
“Her stick work and ball control is really, really strong,” Errico said. “She knows how to maintain possession, how to work the sidelines. She has a great shot; her hits are really strong. Her footwork in terms of running with the ball just looks so natural. She can take the ball down the right side of the field and cross it 98 percent of the time.”
Even when they play tough teams, she’s the one that gets our goal started, Errico said. “No one can really stop her on the sideline, which is really important to me,” she said. “And she’s fast. Not in the sense where she over-runs the ball or anything along those lines.”
‘I have a really positive outlook on [this season] and I think we’re going to do well.’
Corso’s started with a recreational field hockey program in sixth grade. Aside from understanding the rules and figuring out all the whistles, her biggest challenge was learning to see the entire field properly.
“When you’re up front sometimes you don’t see everything because you’re in your own zone,” she said. “But taking a step back and looking at it as I’ve grown through playing field hockey has helped me a lot in seeing the position.”
Corso was on the LHS junior varsity team as a freshman and became a varsity fixture the following year. Pulling a page from her sister’s book, she prompted close friend Caroline Bartosik to play field hockey prior to their freshman year. Corso initially got the same resistance and, in the end, the same result.
“She didn’t play any fall sports in middle school,” Corso said. “I tried to get her to play and she was like, ‘No, I’m not going to play.’ When we went to high school I was like, ‘You gotta try it, just give it a chance.’ And she was like “I don’t know.’ But then she finally said yes and over the summer before her freshman year I was teaching her in the park how to play field hockey. And she loved it.”
So, Corso deserves all the credit for Bartosik?
“No, not quite,” she said with a laugh. “She does a few things on her own.”
Bartosik was a defender her first two years on varsity but when the game was on the line Errico moved her up to team with Corso. That happened often last year when Lawrence played seven overtime games. the coach marveled at the way the two fed off each other.
They return as Lawrence’s top two players, and both made a huge jump in their game last summer after joining the Pennington School team for 10 days in Europe.
“We went to Dublin first and we were sightseeing and all that,” Corso said. “We got to work with an old Olympic coach for field hockey. He just taught us so many different skills than you would learn here. And because the girls were so good, we were trying to match up with them and it ended up improving our skills so much.
“In Barcelona we were working with coaches from the Netherlands which was really cool because they were super skilled. They could bounce the ball off the turf and things like that. It was stuff I’d never seen before. It was a cool opportunity because we could bring the skills back and show them to the girls here.”
Errico noticed a huge difference in the girls when they returned and is hoping for further improvement this season. The Cardinals come off a 7-15-1 season in which they lost an agonizing nine one-goal games.
Goalie Priya Patel returns for her fourth year in goal, and the veteran will have to come up big while a young defense gels in front of her. Gabby Araneta is the lone returnee on defense, as the coach plans on moving Bartosik up to center midfield to form a more consistent connection with her and Corso.
Errico is also looking for big things from senior Myah Rios and hopes that several sophomores will step up.
“I’m hopeful for a good season,” Corso said. “I have a really positive outlook on it and I think we’re going to do well.”
Corso has reason to be so chipper, considering her talents extend off the field. With a 3.8 GPA, she has been part of Lawrence’s musicals every year, and is a member of the Thespian Society and the Tri-M music club. For a while she considered a career in theater, but has changed her focus to journalism and is co-editor of the school newspaper.
Her goal is to get people to stop talking about fake news.
“I’m thinking of going into broadcast journalism,” Corso said. “There’s a lot going on in the media obviously, anyone can see that. I just think it’s important for there to be true journalists that you can trust. I think that’s really important.”
Corso has applied to the College of Charleston after visiting and falling in love with it. Although there is no field hockey program there, she can start a club if she garners enough interest.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to start my own program,” she said.
And then broadcast the games?
“Oh yeah,” she said. “Actually, I want to go into news broadcasting. My dream job would be working on a spotlight team, researching a topic for years and getting to the bottom of it.”
Maybe she can start with the impact the Corso Legacy had on Mercer County field hockey.