Sam Swart looked around Gary Gait’s office, and her eyes wandered toward a small box on top of one of his bookshelves. Gait and Swart’s mother, Maryann, were talking about a potential verbal commitment to Syracuse when Swart walked over and opened it.As the lid slid open, Swart opened her mouth: “Wow, really?” They both turned her way, pausing their discussion. Swart observed the mob of Gait’s rings — conference titles, NCAA title runs and professional accolades. Maryann told her to put them back. But Gait laughed. In seconds, Swart filled her tiny hands with the jewelry, one ring per finger until they were filled.“When she had those rings on,” Maryann said, “she felt like a champion.”The eighth-grader, days away from committing to No. 13 Syracuse, knew she wanted her own. She starred in three sports — lacrosse, field hockey and basketball — at her high school, Archbishop John Carroll (Pennsylvania). They led her to become the versatile left-handed midfielder she is today.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIf it wasn’t for basketball, she wouldn’t know how to juke. Without spin moves on the pitch, she couldn’t blow by collegiate lacrosse defenders. Swart’s breakout first season, in which she was third on SU with 36 goals, has led Gait to call her one of his hardest working players and one of the Orange’s best two-way midfielders. It’s a byproduct of her multisport repertoire. And for now, she’s “all-in” on Syracuse lacrosse.“It’s kinda sad, to be honest. I’m not as busy,” Swart said. “It’s kinda a break for me, but it’s also a chance to become a better player.”,Swart watched her sister, Gabrielle, win state and national titles, eventually earning a spot on the United States travel gymnastics team. But Gabrielle “blew out” her knee before the Olympics, and effectively ended her gymnastics career.Eventually, the thought of ending up injured, like her sister, scared Swart, so she quit. Gabrielle still struggled to find a new focus. One day, the then-13-year-old Swart tricked her sister to practice field hockey with her.“I didn’t tell her I was teaching her,” Swart said. “She would’ve been mad.”“Help me insert the ball,” Swart said to her. Gabrielle did. Swart needed someone to pass to, then. That’s not too much to ask, Gabrielle thought. “Can you score on the run, now, like me?” Swart said to her. Gabrielle got the hang of field hockey, even enjoyed playing it. Swart redirected the coaches scouting her for a potential field hockey scholarship to her older sister.Gabrielle played field hockey for Kutztown after her middle school sister taught her the basics. She didn’t need to only do gymnastics, be one-dimensional. Swart didn’t need to be, either.• • •In seventh grade, Swart saw Gait in the distance at a local lacrosse game she was playing in. She knew him, and of course the school he coached. The 12 year old thought back to her pair of “Jordan Melo” basketball sneakers that her dad, Mike, gave her two years prior. She remembered all of the Syracuse basketball games they shared together in their Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, home then.Gabrielle could see Swart was nervous about approaching Gait. Her older sister had been through it before: she’d committed to Louisville as an eighth grader. She told Swart to just tell him her name, why she’s so fast and determined, what she desires. Speak from your heart, she said. Swart was ready, but then she opened her mouth.“Hi, I’m Sam. I’m from Philly, but you probably don’t really care,” Swart said to Gait. “I want to play for you.”Gait nodded. He said he’d see her around. Their first interaction may have not gone as planned, Gabrielle said, but Swart knew her future: She wanted to play lacrosse for Syracuse. Swart liked the finesse of lacrosse, how it wasn’t a traditional game like field hockey. There were always new moves, dodges, shots that could be done.A 40-mile move from her middle school in Coopersburg to Archbishop Carroll solidified her commitment to lacrosse but didn’t end her multisport madness. Waking up to an hour, sometimes 90-minute drive to Radnor forced Swart to call the school’s secretary, Barbara Volpe, and tell her she’d miss homeroom. After classes came practice and games for two, even three different sports in a day. Regularly, Maryann — who didn’t want to make the trip back home across eastern Pennsylvania — would wait in her car, sometimes up to five hours after lacrosse practice ended.,When Swart got home, usually at about 9:30 p.m., it wouldn’t stop. Hundreds of shots on her front lawn in the dark swung into her new Christmas gift, her own lacrosse net. Her skills grew, eventually earning her the nickname “Lightning” from teammates because of her speed.Swart slowly started to eliminate basketball from her life, divvying her time into field hockey and lacrosse. In lacrosse, Carroll rattled off 17-straight victories in Swart’s final season. And after she was double and triple-teamed in Carroll’s final two playoff games, she scored the school’s two final goals in its state championship win.After the title, Swart ordered a state championship ring engraved with her grandfather’s initials, but it surprised her.“She was like ‘Wow this is so small compared to Gary’s rings,’” Maryann said.• • •Swart had fully committed to playing lacrosse as a ninth grader, but the possibility of playing field hockey loomed in her mind when she joined the U-19 U.S. national team, coached by SU head coach Ange Bradley. Bradley knew Swart’s priority was lacrosse, Swart said, but kept an open offer to the incoming freshman.After four years of anticipation to play for her dream team and coach, Swart was locked out. Her inaugural fall ball, preseason before her freshman season, was canceled due to a mumps outbreak. Her key cards in Manley Field House were denied. The freshman had to wait longer.,What ensued was described by Swart and Gait as a “weird” season. Syracuse posted its first losing record in program history. Multiple leads were blown in the waning minutes of games. But one of the only positives from the season was Swart’s play. She scored in all but two of SU’s 19 games, but shuffled in and out of the starting lineup. In the Orange’s lone NCAA Tournament game, Swart started and scored when SU was down 9-3, sparking a run of eight goals in 30 minutes to give it the lead.A game prior, Syracuse, a team that hadn’t won its first conference game until April 22, played the first round of the ACC Tournament against North Carolina. The Tar Heels scored seven of the first eight goals and dominated SU thoroughly. Swart was held without a goal and turned the ball over four times in the 21-12 loss.After years of bouncing from sport-to-sport, practice-to-practice and game-to-game, Maryann remembered the then-freshman dart to the busing area in her Syracuse uniform after the game. Gait was right behind Swart, waiting to comfort her. It was one of the first times Maryann had seen her daughter cry after a game.Despite the disappointing season, it was the first time in Swart’s life that she was fully dedicated to lacrosse.“I wasn’t expecting everything I have now,” Swart said. “It’s really a gift from God.”The possibility of playing other sports still lingers in her mind. Swart recently brought her field hockey stick back up to college, Maryann said. She also entertains the idea of playing a graduate year for Bradley, throwing out “maybe” after every claim.But for now, the sophomore just wants a bigger ring. Photos by Max Freund | Staff Photographer,Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.