Natick High’s Petulla Twins Identical In Many Ways Lacrosse Captains Will Play For MIT
Above, Nina Petulla competed at attack and had 23 goals and 24 assists during the season. Below, Monica Petulla played midfield and had 15 goals and 18 assists during the season.
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Twins sometimes are not only identical in appearance, but also in their goals, achievements, and pursuits.
Check out Monica and Nina Petulla, identical twins who played lacrosse for four years at Natick High. Their final season concluded last month in the state tourney where they were eliminated by Winchester, 12-7, in the first round.
The 18-year-old twins mirror one another in so many ways. They’re both two-year members of the National Honor Society and their GPAs are the same — 4.75. Both will be enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the fall and both will continue playing lacrosse at the Division 3 college.
The twins will major in bio-chemistry and both plan to go to medical school after earning their bachelor degrees.
At Natick High, the girls, who are both 5-foot-5, competed in cross-country, competitive dance and lacrosse. They were both captains in lacrosse as seniors and were selected as first-team all-stars as juniors in the Bay State Conference.
When Lynne Tartaglia-Ricciotti took the coaching reins last April, the captains faced a similar challenge — they had to adjust to a new style.
“There were challenges,’’ said Nina, who played attack. “There were new plays on offense and defense and practices and strategies were different.’’
Monica, a veteran midfielder, said the transition was tough early on but it became smooth. The Redhawks finished their regular season at 9-9. “Everyone faced the challenge and adjusted,’’ Monica said. “We became a closer-knit unit and that led to better communication.’’
The twins also had to adjust to physical setbacks. Nina suffered a torn ACL and meniscus at the end of her junior season, and Monica bounced back from a concussion in May after missing five matches.
The Natick natives had similar views on how they handled their leadership roles. “I tried to lead by example and to be vocal and supportive,’’ Monica said. “And, I enjoyed mentoring younger players.’’
Nina led by example and aimed to build strong bonds with her teammates. “I strived to created team chemistry,’’ she emphasized. “And, I wanted players to feel comfortable if they needed advice or just wanted to talk.’’
Asked about their strengths in lacrosse and the twins aligned once again. They listed “mental toughness, a high lacrosse IQ, a solid work ethic and speed and quickness.’’ Monica also mentioned versatility and that attribute fit both girls. Monica played defense as a freshman before finishing up as a midfielder the last two seasons. Nina played midfield before she settled in at attack.
Both girls thrived in their respective positions and their regular-season statistics reflected their team-first approach. Nina had 23 goals and 24 assists in 18 matches.
“I was aggressive when pursuing the ball,’’ Nina said. “When in control of the ball, I was more patient, always focusing on sound decision-making. Playing attack was cool because you could score, try to move the defense, and look for teammates in open spaces that often led to goals.’’
Monica also was aggressive, relying on hard work and endurance to excel in midfield where transition often occurs in seconds. She finished with 15 goals and 18 assists in 13 matches. “There’s constant sprinting when turnovers happen,’’ she said. “I like the responsibilities in midfield because it requires adept passing, quick footwork and lots of transitioning from offense to defense and vice-versa.’’
When best games or top thrills are recalled, the twins point to their junior year when Natick defeated Needham for their first time in the program’s history.
Nina called that contest her best game. “It was our first triumph over Needham and that meant a lot,’’ she noted. “Monica took the draws and I was on the circle. That added up to a lot of possessions. And, I was able to score three goals.’’
Monica labeled the game as her No. 1 thrill in lacrosse. “I scored once but that victory was a major achievement,’’ she said. “It was so exciting. We celebrated and the bus ride to Natick was very cheerful. We were underdogs but pulled off a big upset.’’
Monica’s best game was a three-goal effort as a freshman against Bishop Feehan. “I played attack in that game and we dominated the second half for a victory over a strong team,’’ she recalled. Nina said that thrilling times for her occurred when she was named a league all-star and a captain.
The twins have high praise for Natick’s other captain and also for Tartaglia-Ricciotti, who previously coached lacrosse at Brockton High.
“Captain Emilia Morales played aggressively on defense and provided lots of energy,’’ they said. “A very good athlete, she always promoted team spirit. She’ll be playing field hockey for Hofstra University in the fall. Our coach also deserves recognition. She’s a good motivator, an excellent communicator and one who cares about the team and strives to improve it.’’
Tartaglia-Ricciotti is quick to laud the effort the twins gave.
“Monica was like a point guard in midfield,’’ she said. “She was one of our best defenders, solid in transition, had great endurance and played almost an entire game every outing. Nina was a very good passer who had a hard, accurate shot. She was aggressive to the ball and at the goal. They worked well together.’’
When the twins step onto the playing field at MIT, they’ll be competing for the NEWMAC League’s coach of the year — Anne Versprille. “She told us that we were strong recruits and likely would be on the field,’’ Nina said. Monica noted that Versprille was “incredibly kind, motivating, competitive and also understanding that student-athletes at MIT face a big challenge academically.’’
The twins, whose goals at the start of the season were to advance as far as possible in the tourney, took the loss to Winchester in stride. “We qualified for the tourney and did the best we could,’’ Nina said. “At the end of the day, the team bonded well.’’ Monica was injured and unable to compete in the tourney. “It was difficult to watch from the sidelines but the girls did a great job helping each other,’’ she said.
Calling their parents (Larry and Takako) their role models “because of their support and encouragement,’’ the twins will eventually be lacrosse teammates for 14 years — six at the club level, four at Natick High and four more at MIT.
“It’s been a real advantage,’’ Nina said. “We have a great connection on the field. We can communicate without talking, we understand each other’s moves and we’re both instinctive.’’ Monica calls the experience a big plus. “Nina’s a built-in teammate,’’ she said. “We’ve got mutual respect for each other and we’re better together.’’
MIT is in for a treat. Because Monica and Nina Petulla are three-dimensional student-athletes. They’re dedicated, they play with desire and are devoted to the task at hand.