Colchester - There was a voice message waiting one day at Ashley Iorio's house that went something like this: "This is Dick Blumenthal. You've received an appointment to the Naval Academy. You don't have to call me back, but here's my number if you need anything."
"We saved it," said Bob Iorio, Ashley's dad.
It was that message, from the Connecticut senator who nominated her to the academy in the first place, that makes Iorio's not so much a lacrosse story but a success story.
Iorio is a senior at Wheeler High School, ranked first in her class with a grade point average of 4.13 on a scale of 4.0. Last year, playing for the Lions' girls' lacrosse team, she set the program's single-season record with 81 goals. She was the leading scorer in the Eastern Connecticut Conference.
She had a few offers to play lacrosse in college. She even got into prestigious Cornell University, where she was offered an ROTC scholarship. But when Iorio's parents suggested she had decisions to make, she informed them there wasn't much of one, not in her mind.
Iorio reports to Annapolis, Md., for Induction Day at the Naval Academy on June 28. Her graduation from Wheeler is set for June 15. She plans to try out for Navy's women's lacrosse team as a walk-on.
"She's driven," said Bob Iorio, who's also serving as the interim girls' lacrosse coach this season. "She sets her goals. She sets a plan on how to get from point A to point B."
"I always wanted to go there and be an officer," said Ashley Iorio, who attended the Naval Academy's Summer Seminar last year, only increasing her desire to go there. "I like that whole organized atmosphere. And I'm athletically inclined."
Iorio comes by her military tendencies honestly.
Bob Iorio and his wife Beth are both retired special agents for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Bob, a former Marine captain, met his wife while both were stationed in Twentynine Palms, Calif. The couple lived in Hawaii for a time before relocating to Groton for the final leg of their careers. Both recently retired.
Which brings us to the lacrosse part of the Ashley Iorio story.
Wheeler, 0-2-1 this season after an 11-11 overtime tie against Bacon Academy on Tuesday, has not won a game since May 27, 2009. In 2010, the team dropped to club status due to a lack of numbers. Last year, the Lions were 0-13-1.
On Tuesday, Wheeler came so close.
Iorio scored seven goals, giving her 20 in the first three games of the season. She scored with 27 seconds remaining in the second three-minute overtime period to forge the tie, after the Lions trailed 11-9. Amy White also scored in the second overtime and finished with two goals for Wheeler.
"It's encouraging," Iorio said. "I think we're this much closer (to winning). It's gonna happen."
Iorio didn't start playing lacrosse until she was a freshman. Her second year, when Wheeler didn't field a team, Iorio worked on her game as a member of the Connecticut Lazers club team. Upon seeing her brother, William, start lacrosse at a younger age, she chastised her parents for not making her start lacrosse sooner.
"She's a wiry, little redhead," Bob Iorio said of what makes Ashley, only 5-foot-5, so athletically talented. "It's in her character. She had two parents that were federal agents when she was growing up. ... She approaches lacrosse like she approaches just about everything, with a lot of energy, with a plan."
Bob Iorio said he and his wife gave their daughter the choice of attending a different school if she thought it would help her lacrosse career, a conversation which came about the year Wheeler didn't have a team.
"She was emphatic she wanted to stay at Wheeler," her father said. "She thought it was a great place to learn and she set about doing what she had to do to get better."
"This year, I want to help the program grow," Iorio said of her immediate goals. "I'm looking forward to those wins."