Carol Cantele Couldn't Script a Better Final Season

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER


Carol Cantele is trying her best not to think about this weekend marking her last as head coach of the Gettysburg College women’s lacrosse team.

Her approach going into the Division III final four is to just “enjoy the ride,” and that has been the case ever since she and long-time assistant Barb Jordan told their players in March they were both taking an early retirement package offered to tenured administrators at the college.

Cantele will be wrapping up her 30th and final season with her alma mater Bullets this weekend. Gettysburg (19-3) plays 2019 champion Middlebury (20-1) in the semifinals Saturday at Kerr Stadium in Salem, Va., and the winner meets either Tufts or The College of New Jersey in the NCAA championship game on Sunday.

“I’m feeling great, and I’m doing my very, very best to just be where the moment is and not think about the end,” Cantele said. “That’s too difficult. But it’s so awesome. I’m just so grateful to this team and their little engines that keep on running strong. And their desire to want to keep on playing. I just couldn’t script it any better as a last season.”

Gettysburg has been a special place for Cantele since she was a dual-sport athlete during her collegiate career. She helped the Bullets field hockey team win the school’s first national title in 1980 and led the women’s lacrosse team to its first national playoff appearance in 1981.

After graduating from Gettysburg in 1983, she served as a graduate assistant with the field hockey team and club lacrosse coach at Miami (Ohio) University from 1986-88 while attaining a Master’s in physical education with emphasis in sports psychology/coaching behavior. Next, she turned around the lacrosse program at Plymouth State University, taking a 3-9 team her first season to a 10-2 record in her last in 1992.

Cantele’s former coach, Lois Bowers, recruited Cantele as her replacement when she stepped down, and Cantele went on to become the program’s all-time leader in wins. She has amassed a record of 446-114 and claimed 13 Centennial Conference titles and three national titles. This is the team’s 20th NCAA Division III tournament appearance and eighth Final Four in the last 17 years.

“It’s been a joy of a lifetime,” Cantele said, choking up a bit at the reflection of her 30 years. “I inherited the keys of my former coach when she was retiring herself. … I was blessed to receive the offer and accept, and she literally handed me her keys, which I have walked with every single day. The reason I do what I do is because of Lois Bowers, the previous coach, and so I felt like it’s my time to give back to this school and to all the kids in the way in which Mrs. Bowers impacted me. So, it was easy. It was just a no-brainer that this was where I was meant to be.”







Cantele also had the chance to work alongside her husband, Mike, for the last 25 years, as he has served as the school’s head athletic trainer, and she considered herself “blessed” to coach with Jordan, a USA Lacrosse Hall of Famer and former Penn State and national team defender, for the past 20 seasons.

For Cantele, it’s always been more about the people than the results. Not one particular game or moment stands out above the others.

“It’s not the games,” Cantele said. “It’s the people. It’s the parents. It’s the laughter on the field. It’s the music blaring from the locker room. My office is right next to that. So I’ve certainly kept very current with all the fun music. The beautiful setting which our field is located on with these incredible sunsets. You know, not to sound so sappy, but it truly always has been about the people. Sure, I’ll remember specific games, but the games are about the players putting on an incredible concert and watching the chemistry of an incredible, full-field successful transition that results in a fun goal and crazy celebration and the celebrations of the teams on the sidelines. Those are the moments that we’ll remember, and it’s the people affiliated with all those moments.”

Perhaps the best moment is yet to come.

The Bullets advanced to the semifinals with an 8-4 win over Washington & Lee on Sunday and are now set to face a strong Middlebury program that spent much of the season as the top-ranked team in the nation. Gettysburg — led by sophomore attacker Jordan Basso (65 goals, 36 assists) and junior midfielder Katie Fullowan (59 goals, 11 assists) — was tested by a loaded schedule early on with its losses coming to 2021 champion Salisbury and fellow semifinalists Tufts and TCNJ.

“It’s been really fun to watch the maturity and growth of these young players — and by young, I’m talking from first years all the way to seniors,” Cantele said. “We had such a limited last two years because of the pandemic … so like many of the schools, a lot of coaches are probably saying, ‘Wow, that growth developed in a short period of time with so many people with limited game experience at the collegiate level.’ So, I’m just really in awe and proud, and hats off to these young ladies for molding together as one, super efficiently and quickly and just honing their skills, but also just the chemistry that’s necessary to get as far as we have.

“It’s just such a fulfilling feeling. And, these players believe in themselves, and I don’t think it’s a surprise to them at all that they’re there.”

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