19-Year-Old Chris Origlieri Makes Most of Chance Start in Seals' Win


Chris Origlieri, 19, made 29 saves in the Seals' 15-12 win.

Nothing felt out of the ordinary for Chris Origlieri at first. It seemed simple travel logistics were why he was getting most of the time in net at the San Diego Seals’ practice the night before battling Panther City Lacrosse Club last Saturday.

The flight that was bringing the Seals’ British Columbia-based players down to California was late, so it made sense Frank Scigliano wasn’t there. But the following day at the morning shootaround, Origlieri got the news. Scigliano was in the National Lacrosse League’s COVID-19 protocol.

Origlieri was in line to make his first career NLL start at 19 years old.

“I was just trying to focus on what I had to do, obviously not think about what I was doing, the opportunity that I had, what league it was,” Origlieri said. “Just kind of think about playing lacrosse. But obviously, the nerves, right, just trying to combat the nerves the best you can.”

Origlieri figures the crowd in Pechanga Arena was the largest he’s ever played in front of. After all, his highest level of play before last weekend was Jr. A with the Orangeville Northmen.

But he played like a man beyond his years, making 29 saves in his Seals’ 15-12 victory. He had some self-admitted jitters early — even after a lengthy warmup period and some helpful talks with teammates — but it didn’t show with his play. In a league in which it often takes goalies years to find their footing, he took a strong first step.

“As the game progressed, you kind of just think, ‘I’ve played lacrosse before,’” Origlieri said. “‘I just need to stick to what I know how to do and that will kind of pan out for you.’”

Just a few months before his first career NLL start, it took someone asking him if he was going to the draft for Origlieri to learn he was even eligible. Once he did enter his name, the Seals seemed like a natural fit for the then-18-year-old.

San Diego got to see his promise up close, with Seals assistant Josh Sanderson coaching in Orangeville, helping motivate the team to select him in the second round.

“I definitely got that welcome-to-the-NLL sort of experience with practice and training camp with guys like Dane Dobbie and Wes Berg and Austin Staats shooting on you,” Origlieri said. “You kind of get that humbling, welcome to the NLL thing before you even get into a game.”

That prepared him for Saturday, a night that ended with countless congratulations shared in the postgame huddle.

“We couldn’t be happier for Chris,” Seals coach and general manager Patrick Merrill said following the win. “He’s a young kid out there, stepping up in a big way, and we’re proud of his effort.”

Sports teams across the globe are dealing with absences related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the NLL is no exception. The league’s transactions page is overwhelmed with news of players going in and out of protocols. Four teams added players to the COVID-19 list Thursday night alone.

It is a year that embodies the next man up mindset, but nowhere is an absence more noticeable than in the cage. Starting goalies often play a heavy majority of minutes in the NLL. Calling up the third defender on your practice squad isn’t unusual. Calling up the third goalie to start? Almost unheard of.

Yet last week it happened to two teams. The Philadelphia Wings, already down backup Angus Goodleaf, found themselves without starter Zach Higgins when he entered protocols. They opted to bring in free agent veteran Eric Penney, who in Higgins’ stead made 50 saves to back his team to a 12-11 victory against the Georgia Swarm.

“I challenged myself after being released,” Penney said postgame. “Getting that second opportunity to get back into this league, you don’t want to take it for granted. I came out there and tried my hardest.”

And now, the Seals are going to have to hope lighting strikes twice. Following his interview with USA Lacrosse Magazine, Origlieri was placed in the COVID-19 protocol himself along with five of his teammates.

Scigliano remains in COVID-19 protocol as well, leaving Justin Geddie and Moose Whinery as the two options in net for San Diego when they face the Saskatchewan Rush Friday night. It would mark the first NLL start for either of them.

That’s simply a sign of the times.

“Every other year, if the starting goalie gets injured, you’ve always got to be ready to go,” Origlieri said. “You never know when something is going to happen. It’s kind of no different, but it is definitely exaggerated this year.”

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