As a kid, Veronica Napoli played soccer with two older brothers on a small turf field less than a penalty kick’s distance from their home in Merano, Italy.
“They were so much faster and stronger than I was,” Napoli recalls. And yet, the 5-foot-1-inch forward, who currently holds Northeastern’s all-time women’s soccer scoring record with 36 goals and 89 points, shrugged off the size disadvantage like a true pro.
As she puts it, “Playing against them made me a better player when I grew up.”
Her prolific scoring touch bears this out: in her final season with the Huskies last fall, Napoli scored 10 goals and six assists. Freshman year, she racked up 12 goals and five assists en route to becoming the 2008 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Rookie of the Year.
Head coach Tracey Leone, who got her first glimpse of Napoli as an opposing coach on the Harvard sidelines four years ago, praises her player for her speed, skills and passion for the game. “Veronica is tireless,” Leone says. “She is such an inspiring player with tremendous ambition.”
Napoli inherited her athleticism from her parents. Her dad played golf at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and her mom was a well-known figure skater in Italy.
Their little girl grew up active in soccer, tennis, baseball and gymnastics. “My parents wanted to make sure I tried a lot of different sports,” Napoli explains. “They even made me take art classes, but those weren’t for me.”
Her record-breaking final season could not have been scripted with more serendipity. In mid-September, the Newport, R.I., transplant broke both the university’s career-goals record and the all-time points record by scoring her 30th and 31st career strikes in a victory over the University of Rhode Island.
Napoli downplays the achievement. “I don’t really care so much about records,” she says. “I just cared about winning the game.”
Her fondest soccer memory, she says, is her club’s improbable six-game winning streak, which culminated with an overtime victory in the championship game of the CAA Tournament.
“No one expected us to win,” Napoli says. “One person even asked our coach if we wanted tickets to the final game, because no one thought we would make it.”
The same cannot be said of Napoli’s prospects for going professional. According to Leone’s practiced eye, the speedy striker could compete alongside North America’s top stars.
“Every single team needs a player like Napoli, who can break down a defense with her speed,” the coach says. “Shoot, I’d take her.”
But Napoli won’t fret if her playing days are behind her. The junior international-affairs major says she’s looking forward to a Dialogue of Civilizations in Greece and a co-op in South Africa.
“I love my major, and I want to keep traveling,” she says. “Hopefully, my next co-op will lead me in the right direction for what I want to do after I graduate.”