5/25/2010 Stephen Peed

Sticking It to Sickness

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The GoDiplomats.com lacrosse roster lists Chris Marcozzi '10 as a 5-foot-10-inch, 197-pound goalkeeper. Three years ago and 47 pounds lighter, he was just happy to be alive.

Marcozzi had finished his freshman year and was in the midst of an ideal summer job as a landscaper on the New Jersey shore. As the summer went on, he started experiencing stomachaches and had trouble keeping food down. He dismissed it as a bug. The symptoms persisted, and he stopped eating. The fit 19-year-old was suddenly anything but healthy.

Marcozzi returned to his Delaware County (Pa.) home. One day the pain became great enough to necessitate a trip to Bryn Mawr Hospital's emergency room. After two weeks of testing and unsuccessful treatment, Marcozzi was shipped to Penn, about 30 pounds underweight. The doctors diagnosed him with ulcerative colitis and began treatment.He was about to be discharged when "the most intense pain in my life" shot through his side.

A perforation in his large intestine had developed, allowing an air pocket to build up in his abdomen. This presented a life-threatening complication, the potential for sepsis to set in. Marcozzi was rushed in for emergency surgery to repair the breach and reroute his internal plumbing.

"I woke up feeling as if I had been hit by a truck," Marcozzi says.

Marcozzi, who had not eaten well in weeks, spent 30 days in the hospital. He weighed only 150 pounds.

Following surgery, a new complication emerged. Abscesses began appearing on the insides of his legs. The new issue wiped out two more planned corrective surgeries, and his doctor re-diagnosed him with Crohn's disease. The change of course in his treatment managed to get the pain under control.

Things slowly returned to normal for Marcozzi—that is if normal is standing in front of a 5-ounce, solid rubber ball moving about 100 miles per hour.

"I pretty much worked from scratch," Marcozzi says. "When I looked in the mirror, I didn't even recognize myself. I couldn't walk on my own."

Lacrosse was never far from his mind. "One of my first thoughts coming out of surgery was that I needed to be able to play lacrosse again."

Lacrosse would have to wait. Marcozzi missed the 2006-2007 academic year, but he took a job at a gym for the free membership and began to rebuild his body. When he returned in 2007, Todd Cavallaro was the new head coach.

Marcozzi had finally caught a break.

"Every roster position was up for grabs," Cavallaro says. "I knew that Chris had been sick, but I didn't really have any details. In my mind he was a goalie fighting for a spot."

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The return to the crease was not a seamless one. "On the first day of fall ball, we were working a clearing drill and Coach Cav was just behind the net," he explains. "After I passed the ball up the field, my stick flew out of my hands. That is something I had never done before."

It was not long before Marcozzi settled in. Flush with a new lease on life and lacrosse, the sophomore quickly found his form and put himself in a position to win the starting job.

"I think one of the things that separated Chris from the rest of the goalies was that he was just having fun playing the game," Cavallaro says. "He really found a rhythm and earned the starting spot."

In his first year as a starter, Marcozzi went 8-5 with a .556 save percentage. He turned away 129 shots, including 15 bullets from then No. 2 Gettysburg College in the 2008 season finale, an 11-9 F&M win.

In 2009, the Diplomats' record dropped off, but Marcozzi stayed on point with a .531 save percentage.

Marcozzi's successes on the field have been matched by the progress of his health. The pain is managed, and he is able to eat a pretty standard collegiate diet.

Reflecting on the stretch now, Marcozzi credits his parents for his perseverance. "I have no idea how I would have gotten through it without them."

The player who was grateful to step back into the crease two years ago now offers quiet leadership for his F&M teammates. Marcozzi is reticent to talk about the trials he has endured, but his love for the game is contagious.
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