Just when he thought he was starting to get back into the swing of things after suffering a left ankle injury during football season that caused him to miss a good chunk of basketball season, Rich Palazzese saw things get even worse.
During an Episcopal Academy lacrosse captains’ practice, Palazzese, a 2014 midfielder, thought he rolled that same left ankle, only to find it out it was worse than that. Much worse.
Palazzese ended up with a broken fibula and some torn ligaments right before his junior year of lacrosse, which tends to be arguably the most important year for uncommitted recruits. Slowly but surely, though, he recovered after his teammate John Flynn‘s father, Jack, operated on the ankle. He got well enough to play in EA’s final two games of the year against The Hill School and The Haverford School, and by the time summer rolled around, he was full-go for NXT’s 2014 team.
And those coaches who were interested in him before the injury? Most of them stuck around and saw him in action at the Baltimore Summer Kickoff, where he was one of the top middies and good enough to secure a spot in the tournament’s all-star game, where he scored and added an assist and proved to be a dynamo in transition.
Oh, and he found the time to also claim a spot in The College of the Holy Cross‘ 2018 class, choosing the Crusaders over Middlebury (Vt.).
“I was looking for a strong academic school to combine with a competitive lacrosse program,” Palazzese said. “The opportunity to play Division I lacrosse at Holy Cross matches the second half, plus the school has a terrific academic reputation.”
Palazzese will play wide receiver and free safety this year for the defending Inter-Ac football champion Churchmen. He also contributes as a shooting guard on EA’s basketball team, so now that he’s healthy, he’s got a full slate in his final year in Newtown Square.
But he’s got his future locked up and said that most of the coaches who were interested in him before his slew of injuries stuck around, much to his delight.
“Some schools wanted to check me out again after the injury,” Palazzese said. “There were coaches who just wanted to watch me rebound from it. But I really like to think of it as a positive. I feel like I’m playing better now than before. I really like to think of it as a positive.
Palazzese admitted that it was tough to watch as EA posted its second straight season of 15 wins or more, but being forced to take a backseat and visually take everything in also helped his game. Watching All-Delcos Tyler Chambers (also an All-American) and Ian Strain, plus All-American Trupert Ortlieb, is a good way to pick up a few tricks. Those three will be arriving at Penn State, Lehigh and Providence, respectively, this fall, though, so coach Andy Hayes will need to find a new middie crew. Palazzese might be a good place to start.
“Having to watch practice every day helped me visualize everything I have to do on the field,” Palazzese said. “It was really a valuable learning experience, especially with the guys we had. (This year) is exciting, though. Tyler Haab and I are definitely looking to step into those shoes.”
Much of the early buzz around the 2014 Inter-Ac lacrosse season focuses on The Haverford School, EA’s chief rival, especially since the Churchmen lost a big senior class and 2016 crease man Peter Gayhardt, a 42-goal scorer as a freshman, to St. Joseph’s Prep. But Palazzese doesn’t expect to go down without a fight.
“I’m really excited for EA,” Palazzese said. “We’ve got a great group of kids who play multiple sports and we learned from the great classes ahead of us. I have so much respect for the Haverford and Malvern Prep programs, but rankings only matter in May. Two years ago Haverford was favored and we came back to win the Inter-Ac Invitational, so who knows?”
Either way, he’s happy to be back on the field now and in the future. Palazzese is the 14th public Delco 2014 verbal and the fourth from EA after goalie Brian Zappala, FOGO Matt Ernst and defenseman Raphael Furey. The entire list of Delco commitments can be found here.
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