As Roman LaRocco continues to perfect the dodging skills he has obsessed over for years, as he lifts weights in his garage gym, as he falls into the rabbit hole of YouTube highlights until midnight, the Linganore senior has a list of names running through his mind.
They’re names of revered peers that he has written in a black notebook used primarily for lacrosse-related jottings.
They’re names he knows well, even though, if you ask him, “there’s no chance” they know his.
“I’m not going to tell you their names,” he said over the phone Monday as he briefed an inquirer on his infernal intrinsic motivation.
He doesn’t need to identify them. The fact LaRocco keeps this list is a window enough into the mind of one of the area’s most confident, driven athletes.
Last spring, LaRocco set new county records for goals (78), assists (69) and points (147) as he and Will Coletti — his lifelong best friend — helped put the Lancers on the doorstep of the state tournament, where Westminster again halted their charge in the region final.
Instead of preparing to perhaps cross that threshold to a state title in 2020, LaRocco, Coletti and every other spring athlete in Maryland had their seasons and hopes yanked out from under them due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“He probably would’ve broke his own record, and he probably would’ve carried us to a state championship,” Coletti said of LaRocca. “I truly believe that. That kid is ridiculous.”
With the present seemingly stuck in neutral, Linganore’s standout duo is left to train for the future — when in the fall each of them will enter preparatory schools for the Naval Academy (LaRocco) and West Point (Coletti).
Despite so many current restrictions, LaRocco continues exhausting the means to advance his skills, with that revolving list of names propelling him on every run, rep or rip he takes at his home net.
“I’m not going to let this stop me,” he said of the cancellation of the spring sports season and the quarantine.
LaRocco can control what he thinks about and what regimen he follows, but he had no say in what transpired due to the health crisis that has shut down the sports world on all levels. His Linganore team had just left a scrimmage against Quince Orchard in March when the first announcement was made about the closure of schools.
He looked at his teammates and said, “All right, this is probably it for us,” before breaking ranks.
“It’s pretty devastating, I’m not gonna lie,” he said, mentioning — first and foremost — the lost chance to face rival Urbana one more time.
Still, LaRocco transitioned quickly into individual-training mode. Even though he lost out on the valuable live-game experiences and the chance to bolster his Lancers legacy, the extra time off might’ve amplified his focus.
That means cueing up highlights of Johns Hopkins star Joey Epstein and studying “his footwork over and over and over again.”
That means repeating the drills given to him by Ryan Drenner, a former Towson attackman who mentors LaRocco.
That means continuing to add bulk to his 6-foot, 170-pound body in his home gym.
That means refining his patented hockey-stop (change-of-direction) moves because, he said, “You can never get good enough at it.”
And that means further aligning the sights on his main stimulus: Those names.
They each play for private schools, and LaRocco has the utmost respect for them.
They’re all Division I recruits. They’re the kind of players Coletti shares the field with on a premier Fellowship of Christian Athletes club team he has been a part of for the past two years.
In middle school, LaRocco tried out twice for the FCA Maryland team but never made it.
Meanwhile, Coletti had become somewhat renowned for his specialty — faceoffs — which led to an invitation to play on the FCA team, which led to some moments of awe at the talent surrounding him.
Said Coletti, “From Frederick County, you watch some of these kids and you’re like, ‘Oh my God. I do not belong on this field.’”
However, he puts LaRocco in their class. He’s witnessed his buddy’s gains over the years. He’s seen what his buddy can do in crunch time against high-caliber opposition. For example, trailing Westminster by three goals with 2½ minutes to play in the 2019 region final, LaRocco took over — thanks to Coletti’s faceoff mastery, not to mention a friendly suggestion.
“I told him, ‘Don’t let anyone touch the ball. Go to the net,’ and that’s what he did,” Coletti said.
In less than 2 minutes, LaRocco had trimmed the Lancers’ gap to one with his fifth and sixth goals of the game.
They couldn’t complete the rally, but what wound up being the final flurry of LaRocco’s high school career had certified his credentials, if that was even necessary.
“He’s a little underrated,” Coletti said. “He’s not really well-known in the lacrosse world because he goes to a Frederick County public school and doesn’t play on a huge club team. ... But he showed everyone what’s up last spring.”
Not long after the season ended, LaRocco thought his college search was over when he committed to Boston University. It had been rather intense, with him sending out his own highlights — numerous times — to 20-plus D-I programs. He was glad to be done with it. That’s when he said Navy reached out to his Linganore coaches.
He was stoked for the opportunity and took a visit to Annapolis. In late June, he changed his commitment.
“I have such a high respect for people in the military,” he said, “[I thought] there’s no way I can’t do this.”
He’s ready to do whatever the coaches ask of him to prove he belongs at a top-tier college program. He hopes, sometime in the next four or five years, he’ll step on the field with some familiar names — and show he has made one for himself.
“When I play them in college, I want to beat them so badly,” LaRocco said. “Those kids, I’ve been watching their highlights for awhile, so I’m definitely coming for them.”
Follow Joshua R. Smith on Twitter: @JoshuaR_Smith