Captain Julia Lisella (SLHSci’20) of Littleton, Colorado, played with every class in CU Women’s Lacrosse history. The All-America, Goalkeeper-of-theYear anchored multiple Top-25 seasons. And some of her best saves have come with her eyes closed.
Are there other 5th year players on the squad?
No. They call me grandma. It’s crazy to think how fast five years goes by. I slowly stepped into that leader role. The girls ahead leave, but there’s always new girls coming in, and we try to keep the culture the same.
Were you one of Coach Ann Elliott Whidden’s earliest recruits?
The program hadn’t started when I committed; they were training for their first year. I was going into my junior year of high school. It was incredible to be part of a team that had the inaugural class. They were juniors when I came in as a freshman. I’ve been here with every class since the program started.
When did you start playing lacrosse?
I started playing lacrosse in fifth or sixth grade. Growing up, I played all different sports. I even played tackle football. But I will never forget when my dad got my brother [John Lisella II (Mktg’18)] and I our first lacrosse sticks. I didn’t play goal until eighth grade. But when I started, I knew I wanted to play in college.
When did you know you wanted to play in Boulder?
To be honest, I flipped a coin. CU was heads and DU [University of Denver] was tails. I saw heads, and I knew from my immediate reaction: I was excited to see the CU side.
Who are CU Boulder’s rivals?
We have two incredibly competitive Division-I women’s programs in Colorado — here and DU. Within the Pac-12, it’s USC and Stanford. They’re very well-coached, very competitive.
This is your third year as the starting goalie. Do you call out defenses?
We go into every game with a plan. We practice and know what type of defense we’re running. As a goalie you’re the quarterback of the team and see the whole field. You grow and become more aware. Your lacrosse IQ gets better.
What’s the most challenging aspect of playing goalie?
It’s 100% the mental part. Just have a short memory. Get the next shot, make the next play, anything you can do to remain confident.
How do you see the ball when it’s coming through a crowd?
I try to eliminate distractions, the people, the movement. I keep track of the ball at all times and then react. But we joke because there are pictures of me, action shots with my eyes closed. It’s a natural reaction to dodge or step out of the way of something flying at you. I have to switch that mentality and step into it. Goalies are different, maybe a screw loose or something.
What do you wear during play?
I wear some of the most padding in NCAA lacrosse. The chest pad, helmet and gloves are always worn, but I wear thigh pads and shin guards too. Junior year, I started wearing knee pads because I’ve been so beat up. That’s also why I’m always in sweatpants. The ball is like a magnet. I could wear as much padding as I want, but the ball always gets in. I get bruises and welts.
What is the reason for the team’s consistency?
All credit goes to Coach Ann. She has been an incredible mentor, coach and leader. We have high expectations for ourselves and move together as one. Ann’s just amazing and is surrounded by an incredible staff.
What defines success for you?
If a senior class can leave the program better than we came in, knowing we’ve made an impact and our legacy will continue, then that’s ultimately success.
What do you see in your future?
I would like to continue to coach younger girls. I’m a signed model in Denver, so I want to pursue that too. I’ve also taken a few flying lessons. As far as professional lacrosse goes, if that’s an opportunity, it would be amazing.
Condensed and edited.
NOTE: WHEN THE NCAA CANCELED ALL SPRING SPORTS IN MARCH, THE CU LACROSSE TEAM ENDED ITS SEASON 3-2 AND RANKED NO. 25. LISELLA PLANS TO RETURN TO THE TEAM NEXT YEAR WITH HER EXTRA YEAR OF ELIGIBILITY.
Photo by Tim Benko