From Rocket to Hawk

Mia Pantano’s Journey to College Lacrosse

Maddy Forse ('21), Orbit Contributor

Mia Pantano, tri-captain and four-year member of RMHS’s very own girls varsity lacrosse team has committed to continue her academic and athletic career at Roger Williams University. 

Pantano has been playing lacrosse since she was 7 years old and a 3rd grader at St. Mary’s School of Winchester. “I remember the first night before my first practice,” she recalled. “I was throwing and catching with my dad, but it was really just throwing! I wasn’t able to catch the ball for a long time, it took me quite a few weeks. Both my parents thought that lacrosse wasn’t going to work out for me and thought I was going to quit, after a season. I ended up not quitting, which was the best decision of my entire life.” Throughout late elementary and middle school, Pantano played for Reading Youth Lacrosse, along with numerous club teams. “I think my true dedication to the sport was realized when I was cut from a club team in 8th grade, that I had already played for the previous two years. I was absolutely devastated.” She recalls that she had doubts about her abilities all throughout middle school and even considered quitting after the harsh cut. Luckily, she was able to continue playing through other club teams as she finished her middle school years.

I was throwing and catching with my dad, but it was really just throwing! I wasn’t able to catch the ball for a long time.

— Mia Pantano ('21)


Pantano recalls her first week of high school tryouts vividly. “I tried out, trained really hard, worked really hard, put it all out there. They were a week-long, without a doubt the longest tryouts I have ever been through.” Her hard work paid off as Pantano was one of few freshman girls that season to make varsity. “I’ll never forget that excitement and utter joy I felt at that moment.” She does admit to spending most of that season learning by observing. “I was just so happy to be on that team and to have my own spot.”

After another year of training, gym sessions, and playing in extra tournaments, Pantano continued to make varsity for the next two years. “I ended up starting my sophomore year, which is when I really saw the hard work and dedication to my sport pay off.” Even though practices were grueling, (2-3 hours per day, 6 days per week) Pantano enjoyed every second of it.  

One day, Pantano recalls being one of the last girls to leave practice. “One of my coaches came up to me and said ‘Have you ever considered playing in college? Because you really should, you’re good enough to play on a college team.’ I was completely shocked.” It was at that moment, Mia knew that she wanted to dedicate herself to this sport and to continue to play far past graduation.

I ended up starting my sophomore year, which is when I really saw the hard work and dedication to my sport pay off.

— Mia Pantano ('21)

Coming off a 19-3 sophomore season, she was able to get some really good exposure to scouts and coaches from schools.  Pantano continued to play for fun that summer in tournaments and through club teams when she began receiving emails from coaches at schools in the area who saw her play. “That was really what peaked my interest, that there were people who were watching me. They wanted me to play for them on their teams.” She began going to see colleges in her area after her tournaments just to get an idea of what a college campus looked like. She began signing up for showcase tournaments when a bunch of people would scrimmage or could work one-on-one with college coaches. After receiving many more emails, she finally signed up for a recruiting website, which made communicating and showing coaches her highlights that much easier.

One of my coaches came up to me and said ‘Have you ever considered playing in college? Because you really should.’

— Mia Pantano ('21)

“By the fall of my junior year, I was starting to get serious emails from coaches, along with starting to email specific colleges myself.” She asked questions and set up interviews as she began to dive into the extremely stressful recruiting process. “It was scary, coaches were watching your every move, and once they got bored, they wouldn’t hesitate to walk away. You just had to look past it and continue to try to impress anyone you could with your talents. Playing under that kind of pressure really shows you what kind of player you are. You just need to hope that they like your playing style.” Over the course of her junior year, Pantano says she emailed an estimated total of 70-80 schools, which was very time-consuming. Compiling the film she got from her games, scrimmages, and showcases all took a fair amount of time and effort. “Sifting through hours of footage took so much time. I started with division one schools and then worked my way down in preparation for September 1st.” September 1 is an extremely important date for any hopeful student-athletes as it is the day that NCAA schools can begin to contact juniors for D1 and D2.

Pantano and her father drove all over looking at college campuses after more and more coaches began to reach out. “There was one time we drove 6 hours to a school in Pennsylvania. We stayed over the weekend, and I met with the coach. I ended up not playing there because I didn’t feel like it was quite right for me. A huge part of this process is trial and error. You aren’t going to like every coach or campus you come across, and that’s okay,” Pantano said. “At the end of the day, you go to college for a degree. You can’t choose any school because they might not offer your major, or you don’t like the size or the location of the school. It’s super important to find the right fit for you and to not jump at every offer you get.” 

Of course, like everything else in the world, Pantano’s recruiting process was negatively affected by Covid-19. Coaches were unable to see her play in person, which she says really helps the coaches see what kind of player you are. “A huge part of this process is seeing you play the entire game, and not just all the fancy skills that you can do. They want to see the mistake you make, but also how you react to them and recover in a real game. They can see all the good on videos, but games give you everything.” Pantano said it was stressful because she only had footage from her sophomore year of high school and a few recruiting tournaments to work with from the months of March to June. She would quickly google the location, size, and academics of the school before she would hit send in an email. “The hardest part was that I had to talk to all the coaches over the phone and not face to face. Plus, I couldn’t even see the school in real life”. Throughout quarantine, Pantano said she would try to go the turfs if they were open or hit the ball against the wall, just to retain the skills that she had worked so hard to get. She wanted to be ready if an opportunity came her way for a college prospect day or if she had a random scrimmage (through the school or club). “It was hard missing the most crucial season of the recruiting process, plus we weren’t able to honor the seniors. Sitting out from lacrosse for that long really showed me how important this sport is to my life, and I realized my love for it is part of the reason I want to continue to play throughout college.”

It’s super important to find the right fit for you and to not jump at every offer you get.

— Mia Pantano ('21)

Finally, Pantano came across Roger Williams University in Bristol Rhode Island, a school that was D3 in women’s lacrosse. “I sent an email to the head coach not really expecting a response, as these coaches are not obligated to respond. Out of the 70-80 coaches I emailed, only about 20 responded. However, this coach responded to me the next day and wanted to speak with me. In April, we had set up a phone interview. Typically, these interviews only last about 25 minutes, but I talked to this particular coach for over an hour.” Pantano recalls the coach speaking about how passionate she is towards this team and showed enthusiasm towards her highlight reels. “A great relationship was established between her and I, and we stayed in contact.” 

On one of the nicest days that month, Pantano and her dad drove an hour and a half to Rhode Island to go check out the school. They drove around the campus to try to get a feel of what the atmosphere was like. “I absolutely loved it, and I thought it was a beautiful campus and I really saw myself there,” Pantano said. “The coach had been keeping me updated on trying to get an official campus tour, and by the summer, my transcripts were being sent in to see if I qualified for any merit scholarships.” Pantano was able to get a few more offers from schools but ultimately committed to Roger Williams after an academic campus tour in August. “I loved the campus, I thought it was beautiful and the size and distance from home were perfect. Plus, they have a really great political science program.”

It was that day in the car home that she decided she wanted to commit. “I was just so grateful, there were so many emotions running through my head. It was amazing to see all that hard work I had put into this sport that I love so much finally pay off. Freshman year, I couldn’t imagine myself ever playing for a college, but now that’s a reality”.