Alyssa Parrella enjoys playing mind games.
The Hofstra junior and Miller Place native leads the nation this season with 4.88 goals per game. She scored four goals and broke the Pride’s all-time goal record (at 186) in the team's 19-11 victory over Drexel on Saturday and the program's all-time point record last Sunday, but Parrella said her success this year has more to do with her preparation than anything else. She’s learned the ins and outs of the game, studying video and breaking down defenses because, for Parrella, it’s not just about talent, it’s about knowing what an opponent is going to do before she makes her first move.
“Anyone can lift weights and run and work on their footwork, but to know the game and understand it, that’s the biggest thing,” Parrella said. “My focus has been learning the game and developing my game.”
Parrella wrapped up the regular season with 256 career points and 186 goals. She's scored in 27 consecutive games, including four goals and three assists against Drexel as she also broke the CAA single-season goals record with 82.
The numbers are dominant, but coach Shannon Smith said they’re far from surprising.
Smith has known Parrella since she was in middle school, when she played for the Long Island Top Guns travel team. Though Smith has always been impressed by Parrella's skill, it’s her work ethic that sets her apart.
“It’s unparalleled to any other player I’ve ever coached,” Smith said. “She’s always working at practice to push herself and push her teammates.”
Parrella’s team-first mentality has evolved throughout her career, as has her athleticism. She spent 10 years as a gymnast, but walked away because she said she wanted to be part of a team. She found that in lacrosse and has embraced every challenge the sport has thrown at her, from NCAA rule changes to double and triple coverage this season. It’s often ended with the same result: finding the back of the net.
“When I first got here, whenever the whistle was blown, you had to stop and, coming from high school, defenders weren’t allowed in the crease,” Parrella said. “Now, all those rules are changing, and it makes the game so much more exciting to watch and to play. It’s made us grow and develop.”
Parrella’s dedication to understanding the game hasn’t gone unnoticed by her teammates. She was named one of three captains this year, settling into a leadership role that, according to midfielder Darcie Smith, has been the difference for Hofstra.
“When we were freshmen, I think she’d sometimes be scared to step on people’s toes,” said Smith, who played on Top Guns with Parrella. “This year, she’s not afraid to say what she’s thinking to make the team better.”
Parrella said she considered other colleges but wanted to stay close to home. The chance to leave her mark on a program was one she relished.
She’s done just that.
Now, Parrella has her sights on netting a few more goals and leading Hofstra in the CAA Tournament, where it can capture its first conference title since 2007. She’s not expecting it to be easy, but for Parrella, the challenge is half the fun.
“It’s nerve-wracking, but if you’ve never done something before, you don’t want to miss out,” she said. “I think we’ve made that a huge motivator and we’re ready to leave everything on the field.”