Natalie Lombardi can remember the first time she put on her Latin Academy hockey jersey. Even though the senior goaltender described her performance as a seventh grader as “entertaining” she still smiles when reminiscing on her high school career.
That’s not her only reason to smile. Lombardi has been selected as an All-Star for the Southeastern Massachusetts Girls Hockey league for the second straight year.
And the team will play as a No. 15 seed in the Division 2 state tournament against No. 18 Martha's Vineyard at 3 p.m. on Monday at Murphy Memorial Rink in South Boston.
“It’s special. Being on this team for six years, I just always try putting my best out there and getting to go to the All Stars just means a lot because it just means my hard work paid off and people see that,” Lombardi said.
One person who has enjoyed seeing Lombardi’s work pay off is her coach, Ronald Ford. The goaltender’s effort has propelled them to a 10-6-4 record this season, clinching a spot in the state tournament nearly a month ago.
“Natalie has been a solid performer her whole time at Boston Latin Academy and this year we have the team to support her, so it’s great to have the full complement of what you need for hockey,” Ford said.
While highlighted as being consistent, Lombardi could not emphasize her improvement throughout her six years enough.
“I wasn’t that good, just because going from U-12 to varsity, it’s a big difference just shot wise and now I know a lot of the shots and I have more quickness and agility than I did when I was little,” Lombardi said.
However, starting at a young age and competing against experienced athletes proved to be one of her best decisions as a hockey player.
“It made me realize early on how tough every other team is and it showed me that high school hockey is a big competition for girls,” Lombardi said. “It showed me that there’s a lot of good players out there.”
Lombardi may be right about the surplus of good hockey players on the high school level but for her coach, no one seems to a fit as a replacement for the senior goaltender.
“It’s tough because we’ve relied on Natalie a lot the past five years or so,” Ford said. “Having to replace her is going to be a very difficult task."
While a senior season can be bittersweet, Lombardi said she would savor it all as Latin Academy prepares for the state tournament.
“The girls are amazing, I would do anything for my teammates,” Lombardi said. “It’s just one of those things where you want to take everything in and cherish all the moments.”
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.