ASU women's lacrosse assistant coaches Nicole Graziano and Dorrien Van Dyke had the opportunity to face off against their former coaches in games with Florida and Stony Brook in late March and early April.
When ASU took on No. 11 Florida on March 27, facing Graziano's former coach O'Leary, the Sun Devils lost to the No. 11 Gators, but the experience was memorable for Graziano.
"It's always great to see some familiar faces," Graziano said. "And on the opposite sideline, definitely a little bit different but we had a lot of fun out there today."
Graziano spent five years as a Gator learning from O'Leary and her staff, crediting O'Leary for much of her success in the lacrosse world and for making the sport more fun for her.
"I wouldn't be where I am today without Mandy O'Leary," Graziano said. "I credit my career to her."
Despite the familiar opponent, Graziano's preparation remained the same as it is for any other opponent. The Sun Devils attack every game day the same way, and seeing familiar faces didn’t change the process for Graziano.
"Obviously a little bittersweet to be on the opposite side, but no nerves, just going out there and doing what we love," Graziano said.
The loss against her former coach provided a learning experience for Graziano, and the team took advantage of the opportunity to gain invaluable experience against a top team in the nation.
"A loss is only a loss if we don't learn from it," Graziano said.
The following Friday, the Sun Devils faced off against Van Dyke's former team, No. 5 Stony Brook University, where she played from 2014-17. The team traveled to Long Island, New York, to take on the team, ultimately losing 16-4.
Lacrosse is a major sport across much of the Northeast, making Van Dyke excited to be able to go back to where her love for the sport began.
"Just for our team to be able to experience one time what I was able to experience for years, I think it was really special for them," Van Dyke said.
Van Dyke's time as a Seawolf under Spallina taught her many valuable lessons that have helped her in her everyday life and her coaching life. She credits much of her work ethic to her time at Stony Brook.
"I definitely worked my butt off for four years, but I had so much fun doing it," Van Dyke said. "That's definitely something I bring to my life every day."
This season's matchup between Van Dyke and her former team was not the first of her coaching career. As an assistant coach at James Madison University in 2019, Van Dyke coached against Stony Brook to win at the NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship.
"That was really weird, because I still had girls on the team that I played with," Van Dyke said.
Van Dyke's mindset, like Graziano's, stayed the same while competing against her former coach and alma mater.
"It's just another team we're competing against for 60 minutes," Van Dyke said. "Just a little history there."
The opportunity to play against their former coaches and teams was important for the athletes as well. As a young program, it was not only an opportunity to see where their coaches come from, but also provided game experience against some of the top programs in the country.
"They were both really big pieces of their programs while they were there, so it was just really cool to see how much respect they've garnered over their years," senior midfielder Paige McGlothlin said.
Graziano and Van Dyke continue to impart wisdom and experience on the current Sun Devils every day. Alongside these two assistant coaches, the Sun Devils will finish their regular season against USC in Tempe on Friday at 3 p.m. MST.
Kathryn Field is a sports editor at The State Press. Kathryn has previously worked as a full time reporter at The State Press, covering women’s basketball and lacrosse.