When Lauren Ciccomascolo moved from Connecticut to Orange County in 2002 as a lacrosse-loving seventh grader, she received a bit of shock. Connecticut was a lacrosse hot bed. Orange County, not so much.
The game was just beginning to grow on the west coast at that time. Unlike Connecticut, lacrosse was not yet a varsity sport in the place Lauren now called home, competitive girls’ lacrosse club teams were rare at best, and it was virtually unheard of the see a player from Orange County on a NCAA roster.
That description might be hard to comprehend for the present day lacrosse player, as just 15 years later Orange County has established itself as a hotbed for girls lacrosse. The CIF Southern Section fields 96 women’s teams, and college-commitment announcements have become a regular occurrence.
And last month, the Orange County National Tournament Team went undefeated and for the first time captured first place in its division at the US Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament. The OC squad beat teams from Connecticut, the Gulf Coast, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont along the way.
Fittingly, Lauren Ciccomascolo — Coach “Cicco” — helped coach the OC National Tournament Team to the milestone performance. Her lacrosse journey matches the upward arc the sport has taken in Southern California.
First introduced to lacrosse in sixth grade, when her Connecticut neighbor, Jeff, bought a stick, Ciccomascolo soon followed suit and purchased her first lacrosse stick. “After that,” she said, “the stick never left my hands.” Shortly thereafter, she joined her first club team.
But a move from Connecticut to Orange County in the seventh grade nearly ended her lacrosse career just as it was getting started.
“There were not many playing opportunities in the OC,” she said. “Every Sunday I would travel to San Diego to play with a club team down there. If you wanted to pay high-level lacrosse, you basically had to go back East.”
Eventually, Ciccomascolo ended up joining the Mission Viejo High School club team, becoming team captain as an eighth grader and showing great potential. By the time she was a junior, she transferred to St. Margaret’s Episcopal, which had implemented a girls team. She went on to enjoy an illustrious career at SMES where was won a Southern Section Championship, was named Player of the Year by the Orange County Register and was also a US Lacrosse All-American her senior year.
However, being recruited out of California at the time was virtually unheard of. In order to be recognized, Ciccomascolo spent her summers living back East with Maura Fletcher, coach at Newtown (Conn.) High School. Lauren said being recruited from the West Coast was “a full-time job.”
She competed in a half-dozen or more camps every summer, while simultaneously playing in tournaments with her hometown club team, Newlax. During the winter, she would attend Duke’s winter camp, which she described as “an intimate camp” filled with an abundance of top college coaches. That is where Lauren first got noticed.
“From here,” she says, “the letters started flooding in. I had to constantly email coaches, send film and keep them updated. I did whatever I could to keep my name at the top of their inbox.”
Ciccomascolo’s hard work and sacrifice eventually paid off. After narrowing her list to several of the nation’s top schools (Duke, North Carolina and Stanford, to name a few), she committed to Denver.
“And the rest,” Lauren Ciccomascolo says, “was history.”
Ciccomascolo became a focal point of the Denver Pios’ squad. While at Denver, she won three Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championships, earned Academic All-American honors, was named to the IWLCA All-Federation team, All-MPSF, and received MPSF player of the week honors.
But perhaps more importantly, she became one of the first players from Orange County to play NCAA Division I lacrosse, paving the way for girls with similar dreams.
After graduating from Denver, Ciccomascolo moved back to the OC. While working at restaurants and mulling over whether to go to medical school, she slowly became re-immersed in the Orange County lacrosse scene. She started by giving private lessons, which led to a position coaching with the Victory Lacrosse club.
Now, Ciccomascolo is the head coach of the Tesoro varsity program. The Titans have won the league championship in 2016 with Coach Cicco at the helm.
“Coaching in Orange County is something that I am extremely passionate about,” she said. “It means a lot to be back here and to have the ability to give back to a sport and a community that gave me so much.”
There might not be a better person than Ciccomascolo to note the changes in the OC girls game since she was venturing down The 405 to find some lacrosse, any lacrosse, back when the sport was just beginning to blossom here.
“The level of play has escalated,” she said, “and I believe that we will continue to see this trend grow as more college girls return to coach.”
Ciccomascolo also is happy with the recent reforms barring early recruiting
“Back when I was getting recruited, it was the norm to commit the summer going into your senior year,” she said. “Having this time to decide is important. As an eighth grader or a freshman in high school, it is unlikely that I would have known what I wanted. For most young girls, I would presume this to be the same.”
As for her goals for Tesoro, Ciccomascolo hopes to “build a team capable of winning a CIF Championship.”
She believes that is an achievable goal with the addition of strong incoming freshmen classes. Her ambitions for Tesoro next year involve the development “of their individual and team skills, winning a league championship, and making their mark in their playoffs.”