Cara Giordano managed to outrun a memory. Not hers, but that of Vanderbilt lacrosse coach Cathy Swezey.
In a recent conversation, Giordano, a senior midfielder, brought up the fact that she was injured when she arrived on campus as a freshman in 2005. A stress fracture in her shin caused her to miss most of that fall’s workouts.
“She was talking to me about it the other day, and I hadn’t remembered that,” Swezey said. “All I can remember from the last four years is Cara running and running and running.”
Not only was Giordano healthy when the 2006 season started, she was in the starting lineup for her first college game. She has remained a starter ever since — 16 games as a freshman, 17 as a sophomore, 19 as a junior and 16 so far this season.
That’s 68 in all, which is a Vanderbilt record for games played — never mind that she started every one of them. Then there’s the fact that she has been a midfielder the entire time, which means she is one player on her team who is allowed to play in any area on the field.
“As soon as I came in, Cathy told me I was going to be running the midfield for us the next four years,” Giordano said. “I haven’t gotten a break with that.
“It’s a lot of running — you’re on defense, you’re on offense. Occasionally you get subbed and you get a break, but definitely you have to be in good shape.”
Her 69th start will come Sunday, when Vanderbilt opens the NCAA Tournament at Notre Dame.
The Commodores earned one of eight at-large invitations into the 16-team field with a 10-6 record and a No. 12 ranking in the latest Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches’ Association rankings.
Their last victory of the regular season was against Notre Dame, 18-11 on April 15. Notre Dame, however, got an automatic bid when it won the Big East tournament and defeated two top 10 teams along the way.
“I put a lot of value and stock in the fact that they have the revenge factor,” Swezey said. “So I don’t want us to reflect back on our win earlier this season and think it’s going to come as easy as it did the first time.”
Vanderbilt has made the national championship field for the third straight year and did so this time with a young, high-scoring team.
Giordano is the only senior starter. Her 37 points (26 goals, 11 assists) is fifth on the team, which is the lowest she has ranked since her freshman year.
“We’ve been putting up a lot of numbers, especially in the early part of the season,” she said. “I think overall, as a team, we’ve matured and our defense has improved a lot. We’re still putting up numbers on attack.
“It’s a good time for it all to start coming together.”
It also means that the end of her career potentially is one game away from this point forward.
When she leaves, Vanderbilt won’t just have an opening in the midfield for the first time in four years, it also will be without one of its more inspirational players.
“She has so much passion for playing and for doing well,” Swezey said. “She leads by example, but she’s such a great verbal leader and motivator as well.
“She is beyond a natural leader. She just wears her heart on her sleeve.”
Not only that, she makes sure her teammates always have something to wear.
While she is set to graduate this week with a degree in communications studies, she hopes to pursue a career in the fashion industry. She lives in a house off campus with two current teammates and one former one, but opens her closet to anyone who needs it.
“I like to shop,” she said. “It’s a lot of stuff that the girls on the team borrow, so it works out for everybody. It’s like having a sister’s closet.”
In other words, everyone counts on her to make sure they’re properly dressed when they go out off the field. On it, they rely on the fact that Giordano is not going to get worn out.
“She has phenomenal speed and athletic ability, and she’s just such a well-rounded player,” Swezey said. “A lot of midfielders are stronger on one end of the field versus the other, and Cara is equally strong on both ends. That’s allowed her to be a solid contributor for four years. She’s really been the backbone of this program.
“Beside the fact that she’s a phenomenal athlete, she’s a really special person too and I’ve loved every minute of coaching her.”
There certainly have been plenty of those.