A difficult choice prompted change that helped define Danni Napoli’s collegiate experience — and set a record.
By Brett Ford
Danni Napoli ’19 came to Geneseo in the fall of 2015 with the notion of being an elite student-athlete while obtaining one of the best educations in the country.
Earning a degree in mathematics from a renowned institution was a priority, but so was playing the two sports she fell in love with at a young age. Napoli was a member of the field hockey and softball teams during her first two years on campus, but she kept feeling like something was off.
“It was like I was doing things half-heartedly, only pouring half of myself into each sport,” she said.
At the end of her sophomore year, Napoli stepped away from field hockey to focus on softball. She had earned first team All-State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) honors her first two years in softball. That accomplishment guided her path, though it was difficult to give up field hockey.
“I felt guilty,” said Napoli, “like I was giving up on field hockey and on my teammates, but I knew I wasn’t giving them everything I had. I wanted to pour all I had into one sport, and I chose softball.”
“I was selfishly upset that the field hockey program was losing not only a high-quality athlete but an even higher-quality person,” said then-head field hockey coach Jessica Seren. “But I appreciated Danni’s courage and self-awareness to decide to walk away from a sport she loved so she could focus and excel at another.”
Napoli felt a huge difference in her student-athlete experience at the start of her junior year.
“I felt so much more like part of the team,” Napoli said. “I had missed out on the sisterhood and the culture the previous two years, but I was able to develop these relationships with my softball teammates. It made a huge difference.”
Napoli’s willingness to make the move paid off.
In her final two seasons, Napoli led Geneseo to the winningest two-year stretch in program history. In 2018, the Knights went 32-9 while winning the SUNYAC Championship for the first time since 2002. In 2019, Geneseo won a program-record 37 contests, earned an at-large bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament, and advanced to the NCAA Super Regional, the farthest any Geneseo softball team has reached in the postseason. Napoli’s final season culminated with SUNYAC Player of the Year recognition as well as her second-straight All-Region honor.
She also broke the program’s all-time home run record, with 23 home runs, while finishing third in hits and runs scored. The previous home-run record was held by Samantha Trapasso ’14.
“I learned some hard and valuable lessons and made some irreplaceable memories with Geneseo field hockey, and one of those lessons was knowing when to let go,” said Napoli. “Being fully invested and fully committed to the softball team made all the difference. I truly enjoyed my time playing field hockey, but fully immersing myself in softball paid dividends. I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world.”