A series of features where the Tigers catchup with those who came before and what they have become after graduating from Pacific. Once a Tiger, Always a Tiger
by Zack Bayrouty
Former Pacific field hockey star and three-time All-American Luci Lagrimas almost missed her calling. What she knew in junior high school was that wanted to be a three-sport athlete. Problem was, she only had two of the three sports locked up. Tennis, track and field and…softball?
In her quest for the elusive third sport, she noticed that many of her tennis teammates also played field hockey and they convinced her to give it a shot. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I wanted to be one of those athletes that had the varsity jacket and could sport the three pins,” said Lagrimas, now the Director of Engineering at Cisco Systems. “I was going to try softball, but my teammates convinced me to come out to field hockey. I knew so many people that were going to go from tennis to field hockey so I tried it, and lo and behold, I made varsity my sophomore year of high school and was the team MVP.”
So began a journey that would help shape the rest of her life. In a sport she discovered somewhat by accident, she became a three-time All-American at Pacific, a member of the U.S. National Team, a coach, a member of field hockey’s USA Olympic Development Team, and an umpire.
Lagrimas had the chance to try out for college squads out of high school in 1981, something that doesn’t happen today. She caught the eye of then-Pacific head coach Carla Konet and was presented with an opportunity to attend Pacific and work on an engineering degree, a field in which she aspired to work.
“The thought of being able to get my education paid for and play hockey was amazing,” said Lagrimas. “Things just worked out for me in college in terms of the opportunities and the competition.”
The decision to attend Pacific, as it turned out, proved to be mutually beneficial. Lagrimas earned her degree in Electrical Engineering while Pacific was able to field a three-time All-American (1982-84) and NorPac All-Conference honoree (1981-84). Pacific has still not had a three-time All-American since Lagrimas.
“For me, being an All-American…knowing that field hockey and its association with Pacific really hadn’t been on the map until that time, to be able to do that for the university through my play and be recognized like that as a member of the Pacific family means a lot to me,” she said. “I still look back and am always surprised just thinking to myself, ‘wow, I was a three-time All-American’. That’s pretty special.”
Lagrimas had thoughts of playing in the Olympics following her time at Pacific, but was forced to reconsider those aspirations as her career began to take shape.
“Being from an Asian family, there are certain pressures,” she said. “My parents wanted to know when I was going to start working and start paying my own bills. After going hard (with field hockey) for so many years and with all the other pressures I was feeling at the time, I had to step away from field hockey and get back to basics.”
Lagrimas took a full year off from field hockey and actually had an opportunity to go back and play for the national team in 1987 after a coach spotted her playing on a local recreational team called Slime, comprised of post-collegiate field hockey players that wanted to continue playing at a high level. Though she thought about returning to the US National Team, she felt it wasn’t the right move at the time with her career taking off and she made the hard decision not to go back.
“Looking back I’m at peace with that decision for sure,” said Lagrimas. “Especially since, career-wise, I was able to take my career down a path that was always my goal. Athletics kind of distracted me in a way. Being an engineer was the path for me and athletics helped me get there, but later on I was still able to foster my love for the game and still able to be involved and give back.”
Those opportunities to continue her involvement in the sport began in the early 90’s when she served as an administrative director and coach in the USA Olympic Development Program for Field Hockey from 1991-2003. As the administrative director for California, she was responsible for the talent identification and development of future Olympians aged 13-18.
She became involved in a way she never could have envisioned in 1999 when she began umpiring field hockey games. It was something that happened initially out of frustration and then grew from suggestion.
“It’s a funny story,” she said. “I was playing on a rec team in a women’s league in the Bay Area and I got very frustrated with the umpiring in our league, to the point where I was a bad citizen on the pitch. I would yell at (the umpires), tell them they were crazy. One day I thought, ‘you know, I could umpire better than these guys.’”
In order to demonstrate that she could indeed work as an umpire, Lagrimas began umpiring in her women’s club league. One day she was umpiring a club game in which Stanford coach and former Olympian Sheryl Jothnson was playing. After the game, Johnson offered a suggestion.
“She says, ‘Luci, you might be good enough to do this at the college level. Why don’t you come out and try?’” said Lagrimas. “So I started umpiring college and my first season I got three local games. After doing it for two years and hearing that a big-time program at Maryland was going to come out and play NorPac schools I decided to get formal training and started getting more and more opportunities.”
Those opportunities have now included college tournaments, NCAA First and Second Round games and also the Final Four.
“I love doing it,” she said. “I still love doing it today. It works well with my schedule, and I’m thankful that I’ve always had very supportive managers at Cisco who allow me to do it.”
She’s also grown to appreciate how difficult umpiring and officiating can be.
“It’s harder than I thought it would be,” she said. “I regret giving those umpires a hard time. Now I try and take college kids who want to learn and try to show them and educate them on how tough it is. I have a lot of respect for umpires in all sports.”
These days, Lagrimas balances her field hockey activities with her career as an engineer at Cisco, where she’s just celebrated her 11th year with the company. She’s part of a specialized team called Talos, a threat intelligence organization dedicated to providing protection from cybersecurity threats. She manages the team that is based out of San Jose.
After years of trying to balance field hockey with her career, it seems Luci Lagrimas has woven the two into a perfect marriage whose seeds were planted in Stockton.
“Pacific really shaped where I am today,” she said. “Without the experiences of field hockey, the engineering program, the friends, and the other people that I met throughout my time there, I don’t think I’d be here today.”