Watching Brittany Russo play soccer at Danvers High, it was clear even to the untrained eye that the dynamic striker had what the scouts call “Division 1 speed.”
This fall, while helping usher in a new era of athletics at UMass-Lowell, she’ll get to show that off at the D1 level.
Russo graduated from Danvers in 2011 as the school’s all-time leader in goals (101) and points (139, though both records were broken by Corey Persson the following season) and took her considerable skill to Lowell, a Division 2 national contender in the highly regarded Northeast-10.
She was the NE-10 Rookie of the Year as a freshman and wound up losing all but eight games to a knee injury last year. In the winter, UMass Lowell announced a system-wide move to Division 1 and plans to join the America East conference to the delight of their fans and many current players.
“I chose Division 2 because I wanted to focus on school and still play at a high level. There were a few times when you wonder about playing D1, and to be able to play at that level at the school I love is really exciting,” Russo said.
Lowell opened training camp this week and plays its first Division 1 game at Marist on August 29. Just six of their 18 games are at home, but they’re looking forward to the chance to travel to venues like the University of Cincinnati.
“It’s a little different. We haven’t traveled much further than Vermont and New York and getting on a plane for a game will be different,” said Russo. “That’s one of the difference with Division 1, the time and preparation.”
Every school that makes the transition to D1 has a transition period in which they don’t qualify for the league and national tournaments. That, and just seeing some of their new rivals like Boston University, New Hampshire and Maine, for the first time will give the River Hawks plenty to play for.