In the annals of the illustrious history of The University of Scranton athletics department, 70 student-athletes have earned All-American distinction in 15 different sports. But, none of them could say they earned All-American honors in two different sports.
That was until Becca Russo (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor) stepped foot on campus in 2016.
After a banner first two campaigns in the women's soccer and women's lacrosse programs at Scranton, Russo etched her name into the Scranton history books for all-time in 2018-19, as she became the first student-athlete (male or female) to earn All-American honors in two different sports.
In the fall, she was named to the United Soccer Coaches (USC) All-American squad as a Second Team selection, while in the spring, she nabbed Second Team All-American accolades from the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Association (IWLCA).
"It is a tremendous honor to become the first student-athlete in Scranton history to be an All-American in two sports," said Russo. "But, it is even more humbling knowing that out of all the schools to pick from, I picked the right University for me. I have been blessed with the coaches, teammates, and athletic atmosphere that Scranton has to offer more times than I can even express and for that, I am extremely grateful that I can represent the University, especially our athletic department in this way."
The Master Juggler
If juggling the responsibilities of playing two different sports over two different seasons wasn't enough, Russo has excelled in the classroom at Scranton as a Nursing major, registering a 3.89 GPA to earn CoSIDA Academic All-District honors in women's soccer and as an at-large selection in the spring.
Ultimately, Russo plans to become a pediatric nurse after graduation from Scranton next May, but for now, has a set regime to complete her academic to goals.
"The timing of our games makes it much easier for me to juggle my academic schedule with my athletic schedule," she said. "I always know that I am going to have a weekday and one-weekend game, therefore, I can plan accordingly with my schoolwork and get ahead where it is necessary. Being a student-athlete definitely does come with some challenges. For me, the toughest part is getting home late from an away game and having to wake up early the next morning for a full eight-hour clinical day."
What's the difference between us?
But, despite the challenges, Russo has excelled in ways that no student-athlete in the history of Scranton's athletic department has ever, while also doing so in two completely different sports.
However, her role in successful seasons for both the women's soccer and women's lacrosse programs in 2018-19 is similar.
On the soccer pitch, Russo is a defender who spearheaded one of the best defensive units in all of NCAA Division III in 2018, as the Royals allowed just 10 goals the entire campaign, which was good enough for one of the best goals against average in the entire country at 0.46 (18th best nationally).
Meanwhile, in lacrosse, she has been an absolute force on, you guessed it, defense.
In 2019, Russo led the Landmark Conference in ground balls with 74 and was second in caused turnovers with 41. She also helped ignite the offense, ending the year with 79 draw controls, the seventh-best mark in the Landmark.
So, what does Russo think is the biggest difference between the sports for her? The answer is simple - strategy.
"I have been playing soccer much longer than lacrosse so, in that aspect, soccer is easier for me because it comes more naturally," she said. "In the sense of game tactics, I feel as though lacrosse is easier because the game is much faster-paced, therefore, it is easier to adjust game tactics on the fly. Also, goals can be scored very quickly in lacrosse to shift the momentum away from the opposing team."
The Last Hoorah
Now with her historic junior season in the rearview mirror, Russo has her eyes locked in for her send-off 2019-20 campaign in which she will be the leader of not one, but two programs that look to make even more history.
A two-time Landmark Conference champion on the soccer pitch, Russo and the Royals lost in heartbreaking fashion in 2018 on penalty kicks to Susquehanna. In women's lacrosse, the Royals have been on the cusp of a conference title three times in Russo's career, only to fall to rival Catholic in each season.
"When [women's soccer] won [the Landmark] my freshman year, I was happy but I did not truly understand the importance of that title, making me that much more appreciative of winning it again my sophomore year," said Russo. "Losing in the championship this past year was heartbreaking, but it has only made us that much more motivated in the offseason to prepare for this upcoming Fall season."
"I want to simply enjoy senior year," she continued. "Everyone tells you that college flies by and I don't think you fully understand that until you are the one wishing you could have your four years back. Not everyone is fortunate enough to play the sports they love in college, therefore, for these last two seasons, I want to take it all in and enjoy every minute with my teammates who have become my best friends over these past three years.
"And the best way to go out would be winning the Landmark Conference Championship for both soccer and lacrosse."
This article will be published in the 2018-19 Landmark Conference Yearbook. For more information on the Landmark Conference, click here.