Since grade school, University of Colorado lacrosse player Johnna Fusco always had a wide range of interest in sports. All of her years participating in soccer, gymnastics, cross country and cheerleading helped set her up for a successful lacrosse career not only in high school but in college as well.

"I got into sports kind of late, actually," said Fusco, a 5-foot-4 junior attack. "I played a lot of sports. I played soccer first, was a cheerleader, I did gymnastics, but I didn't really have a sport that I loved initially. Lacrosse came to Georgia considerably late, so I started when I was in eighth grade and from then on I've kind of just picked it up and loved it. But I've been an 'athlete' since I was probably 10."

With her extensive sports background, Fusco developed the great athletic talent that Colorado head coach Ann Elliott looks for when recruiting her players.

"I think she's a true competitor, and I think she was drawn to the school for many reasons and to our program, and we're very fortunate to have her on the team, because she has all those things — the speed, athleticism — that we look for in all our players," Elliott said.

Fusco and her teammates will open CU's third season in Division I lacrosse when they visit the University of Denver at 3 p.m. Friday. For Fusco, it will be the next step in an impressive career with the Buffs.


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Because the Marietta, Ga., native grew up with two older brothers and two younger sisters, Fusco said her father always expected his kids to get involved with sports and stick to the one they loved the most.

"I think my dad just really dug (sports) into all of us," Fusco said. "I grew up watching my brothers play baseball, so I always saw them doing something, so I was really happy that I found something that I really enjoyed as much as they enjoyed football and baseball."

Because lacrosse was late in getting to Georgia, Fusco wasn't able to first pick up the sport until late in middle school. From Day One, lacrosse became something she could see herself competing in for a long time.

"It was really, really new," she said. "They had it for our high school but not for our middle school yet, so it was super new getting into it and having to try out in high school, but it was really different. But it was something I got to do every day after school and it gave me a schedule and from then on I really loved it."

During her career at Lassiter High School in Georgia, she finished with four letters and two All-America honors while setting school records in a number of categories: 177 goals, 163 assists, 340 points and 310 groundballs.

Although the Colorado coaching staff picked up Fusco late in their recruiting process during her senior season in high school, she's made a nice transition to the college game and continues to be one of CU's top performers.

During her freshman year, she led the team in points (62), goals (45), shots on goal (77) and shots attempted (95). Last year, she added to those numbers as she led the team with 21 free-position goals and 101 shots on goal, 44 of which she put in the net.

This year, she looks to improve upon those numbers again, starting Friday against DU. Elliott believes they are ready for the challenge.

"Johnna has all the skills and natural attributes that you need to be successful, so we knew she could do great things, and we've been very pleased with everything that she's done and contributed to our program throughout the years," Elliott said."I think her and the rest of the team is just getting started in what they can really achieve."

Alissa Noe: noea@dailycamera.com