CHESHIRE — Nick DiDomizio and Jack Lovelace formed a friendship through years of playing football and lacrosse together. The two Cheshire seniors went back and forth on what sport to pursue in college.
In the end, they arrived at an identical decision: same sport, same school.
After playing lacrosse for four years at Cheshire High School, DiDomizio and Lovelace will continue to team up on the Division I level at the University of Hartford. Coached by Ryan Martin, the Hawks compete in the American East Conference.
“We’ve been playing together since fourth grade and that isn’t something that a lot of guys get to do with their friends,” said DiDomizio, a two-sport captain.
“I think Hartford is getting two great kids,” said Cheshire lacrosse head coach Mike Devine. “Nick has excelled on the field and in the classroom since he came to the high school. Jack has worked hard on his game and his skillset reminds me of (2017 graduate) Ryan Lindsey.”
Lovelace committed first to the Hawks.
“Some people like to wait, but I thought Hartford was a great school when I went up there,” reflected Lovelace. “I like the team and the coaches. They have a great business school and that is what I’m interested in.”
Lovelace also considered Endicott College in Massachusetts, Bates College in Maine and Hartwick College in New York — all Division III schools — but ultimately decided to play on the D-I level.
“It is definitely going to be a grind,” Lovelace said. “You have to accept it and work hard to be the best player you can be.”
Growing up, Lovelace dreamed of playing college lacrosse.
“When you are watching lacrosse on TV, you want to be a great player playing in one of the big games,” Lovelace said. “To get that opportunity, first you need to become a college player.”
Lovelace tried lacrosse in third grade, but when he didn’t score on attack, he chose to play baseball for two years. When people advised him to come back, he found success in switching from defense to midfield going into seventh grade.
“I fell in love with the game,” recalled Lovelace. “There is a sense of creativity in lacrosse. You can be your own person and still work for the common goal of winning the game.”
While Lovelace made his college commitment last year, DiDomizio held off on his decision until this fall. His recruiting process was made tougher by the fact that many colleges are not giving live tours due to the coronavirus.
“Fortunately, I went up to Hartford before the pandemic started,” DiDomizio said. “When Jack committed, I wasn’t sure where I was going to go, but when I talked to the (Hawks) coaching staff, I liked them and the program.”
Throughout high school, DiDomizio wanted to play college lacrosse, but when the CIAC decided to not hold 11-on-11 football this fall, he started looking at playing both sports on the D-III level.
“In the end, I decided that I want to focus on my academics and play one sport,” explained DiDomizio.
A standout in the classroom, DiDomizio was named Cheshire’s Great Blue Research/Southern Connecticut Conference Male Scholar Athlete recipient this fall.
“Right now, I’m leaning toward going into engineering in college,” said DiDomizio. “It is a tough major, but I’ve heard good things about the program at Hartford.”
DiDomizio feels that it will be hard to leave football behind after high school. His family has a special legacy within the Rams program.
DiDomizio’s uncle Tommy, a former player, tragically died in a car accident in 1992. In his honor, the Rams pick a player every year who receives the Tommy DiDomizio Memorial Award and has his name added to a memorial rock at Alumni Field.
“I’ve learned so much about what it means to be a Cheshire football player,” said DiDomizio. “As a kid, I saw my grandfather bring down the water coolers and all the guys touch the rock on the way to the field.”
For lacrosse, DiDomizio made an immediate impact as a Cheshire freshman in the spring of 2018, earning a starting spot on defense. Led by a deep senior class, the Rams were runners-up that year in the SCC Tournament.
“Coming in as a freshman, there was a change from youth lacrosse,” recalled DiDomizio. “I couldn’t have made that transition without the older guys helping me out.”
After graduation losses opened up positions in 2019, Lovelace seized the opportunity to break into the lineup as a midfielder. In a highlight, he tallied a personal-high four goals in a 9-7 loss to Notre Dame-West Haven.
“I didn’t play much up until that game,” recalled Lovelace, who wound up posting 16 goals and six assists as a sophomore. “It was an awakening that I could play on the varsity level and make an impact.”
Along with contributing on defense, DiDomizio scored his first goal as a sophomore. In his development, he credits the leadership of Rich Pulisciano, who led as the Rams head coach for 21 seasons (1998-2019).
“It was great playing for Coach P. He taught me so much,” stated DiDomizio.
After going 6-10 in 2019, Cheshire looked to bounce back in 2020 in Devine’s first season as coach, but health concerns from the pandemic led to the CIAC canceling the spring season.
“We were putting in probably 20 hours a week doing weight lifting and box tournaments,” recalled Lovelace. “We did wall-ball challenges in the spring, but didn’t get to play games again until the summer.”
Just as it did in lacrosse, the pandemic impacted Lovelace and DiDomizio in football. While the CIAC chose not run the sport this fall, the Rams were able to hold non-contact workouts into the month of November.
“You need to do your best in every situation,” explained DiDomizio, who captains the football Rams with classmate Chisom Okoro. “We were able to compete with the guys in a safe way.”
Last year, Lovelace and DiDomizio helped the Rams post an 8-3 record and reach the Class LL football playoffs for the first time in a decade.
“That was an unreal experience,” recalled Lovelace. “That season had some of the best moments in my life.”
DiDomizio caught three touchdown passes at tight end and made 29 tackles on defense. Along with making his first touchdown reception, Lovelace supplied 16 tackles and returned his first interception for a touchdown.
In the Class LL quarterfinals, Cheshire jumped ahead 14-0 at Simsbury before the host Trojans rallied to win 17-14.
“Last year showed how much we’ve improved,” reflected DiDomizio. “It meant a lot to make the playoffs and make memories with everyone. The seniors led us all the way.”
Returning this year among 20 seniors, DiDomizio and Lovelace still have a shot to play football. The CIAC has aet up an alternative season in which football teams could play five games between March and April.
After not getting to play in the spring, Cheshire boys’ lacrosse players are also training with hopes of returning to action in 2021.
“I want to get time with my teammates in both seasons next year,” said DiDomizio.
Along with DiDomizio and Lovelace, five other Cheshire seniors have committed to play college lacrosse: Dan Bourdeau (Salve Regina), Brian Bouwman (Merrimack), PJ Cass (Swarthmore), Aidan Gaudet (Connecticut College), and Andrew Vernon (Norwich).
DiDomizio is a co-captain with Bouwman. Lovelace feels that the Rams have the talent to make a playoff run.
“Cheshire has always had great tradition, but to make the title games, you need to put in the work,” Lovelace said. “If we have that culture, good things will come.”