By: Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Media Relations
Dan was always a big, gifted defenseman while David was a late-blooming, smaller attackman. The DiMarias couldn’t be more different, yet alike in many ways. Both are in their final collegiate seasons, but took very different paths to where they are today. They’re trying to lead their respective squads - Duke and Lehigh - to the NCAA Tournament and maybe even a Championship Weekend matchup in Philadelphia with a National Title on the line.
“We call every day and hope for a final round championship weekend matchup of Lehigh vs. Duke,” said Dan.
A standout at Harvard before using his final year of eligibility at Duke, Dan has never made the NCAA Tournament. David led Lehigh to its first tournament appearance a season ago.
The brothers are very close. Dan, serving as the “big brother” growing up, had a significant influence in David’s decision to play lacrosse.
“Dan had some early success when he first started lacrosse - just being an athlete - and I thought I could do the same thing,” said David. “There’s that competitive nature of anything he can do, I can do better. He definitely played a big role in why I started to play lacrosse and why I continued to work as hard as I did in high school.”
“We’re an extremely competitive family and have been extremely competitive siblings ever since we’ve been little,” said Dan. “He’s always had the smaller brother chip on his shoulder and was the kind of brother who would come into my room, kick me in the shins and run away as quickly as possible.”
Growing up, the DiMarias were focused on baseball. Dan didn’t start playing lacrosse until middle school and David started the summer going into high school at Half Hollow Hills West on Long Island.
“My dad always pushed baseball growing up, but then he realized the opportunities we had with lacrosse,” said David. “Coming from Long Island which is such a hotbed for lacrosse, I wanted to pick up a stick.”
Dan was the star who was destined for greatness while David was more of an underdeveloped, late bloomer.
“Early on in high school, I was still so young and pretty small,” said David. “I kind of shied away from Dan in high school because he was so much bigger than me and it wasn’t fun - it even hurt - to go up against him.
“As I’ve grown and developed my game, I’ve become a little more confident and able to take the beatings he delivers when we go out and practice.”
Dan was an Inside Lacrosse top 100 recruit and essentially had his choice of schools when deciding where to play. He wanted to use lacrosse as an avenue to the best academic institution possible and ended up at Harvard. That decision would be influential for David just one year later.
“Dan had offers from all these big time schools, but said the smartest road for you to take is to let your athletic game take you to the best possible academic university to set you up for the future,” said David. “He did that by going to Harvard and that’s something I took to heart.”
“Don’t just base this purely on lacrosse,” said Dan when asked the advice he gave David. “Make sure that you look at all the angles, look at everything, then decide on the place you think you’ll be happiest and will provide the most for you, both lacrosse and academic wise.
“I remember sitting down with my brother and we zoned in on Lehigh,” Dan continued. “This has the best of all aspects that you could possibly want. Great academic school, the lacrosse team will be great and a great group of friends that he met on the recruiting trip. I know he’d say it was the best decision he’s ever made.”
Dan enjoyed a standout career at Harvard as one of the top defensemen on the team, and Ivy League. Following a junior season which saw him lead the team in groundballs (56) and caused turnovers (13), he was named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List prior to his senior campaign which was ultimately cut short due to injury. Dan retained a year of eligibility, graduated from Harvard and moved on to Duke for graduate school.
“I sat down and really thought about it,” said Dan. “It became clear pretty quickly that Duke was all the things I would want in a graduate year experience. Then when I came down here and met with the coaches and players, I knew it was a perfect fit.
“Fortunately, with Coach [John] Danowski’s help and being in the school of business, it worked out perfectly,” Dan continued. “My time here has been absolutely awesome. It’s a new experience for sure, coming down south from the north. Getting to know a new team right away, having to be an older guy but at the same time, being a new guy, it has definitely been a unique experience. I’m so fortunate and I’m so proud to be here.”
Meanwhile, David has developed into one of the nation’s top attackmen under sixth-year Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese, a former Duke All-American and assistant coach. David posted 33 points as a freshman, 52 as a sophomore, 47 as a junior and already 51 as a senior, leading the Mountain Hawks in points, goals (23) and assists (28).
“David is a big six-foot, 210 pound character, but in high school, he had more of a shorter, quicker build,” said Dan. “In high school, his main role was finishing - sneak around defensemen, make yourself invisible then score at the last minute. As he’s gotten bigger, he’s had to develop into more of this powerful dodger and feeder, but he hasn’t forgotten his finishing capabilities.
“When I watch his game now, I see this person who has not only developed into a strong dodger and distributor, but who also has the capacity to finish in close and make these tight plays. I’ve been able to see his evolution from an inside crease finisher to this dodger. It’s been really cool to see.”
David couldn’t speak more highly of his brother and his ability on the lacrosse field.
“I think highly of Dan,” he said. “In my eyes, Dan is the best defenseman I’ve ever seen play.”
“Dan has that physical aspect of the game; he’s a big strong defenseman with great feet,” David continued. “He’s very athletic and rangy. He can cover just about any kind of attackman. Dan has the athleticism to stay with some of the quicker guys, and has the meat and bone on him to go against thicker attackmen.”
The brothers aren’t the only DiMaria standouts in college lacrosse. They have a sister (Jaclyn) who’s a sophomore at Marist and a current senior in high school (Julia) who will play for perennial national champion Northwestern next year. The siblings are consistently pushing each other, even from a distance.
“It’s a huge point of pride for our whole family,” said Dan. “We all feel super fortunate and blessed. Even more than pride, it’s competition. We want to outshine all of our other siblings.
“We have a group chat and text each other at least once per day. We have a saying in our family, who’s the golden child,” Dan continued. “Every day, I’ll get a text from one of the other siblings saying what they did today. In response to that, each of us will respond trying to one-up the brother or sister. It definitely comes from within; we’re a super competitive family.”
Especially playing opposite positions, the brothers are able to help each other through the grind of a college lacrosse season.
“Coaches can teach you as much as they want, but when you hear advice coming from arguably the person you’re closest with, it makes an impact,” said Dan. “We definitely try to help each other out. I’m definitely a better player for it.”
“Many conversations are based on of how Duke is doing and what teams they have coming up,” said David. “I’ll give him a little feedback on how we’re doing and what I’m thinking for the rest of the week.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, both DiMarias have high hopes. Their respective squads had relatively slow starts, but are peaking at the right time. The Mountain Hawks have won four straight and clinched the #1 overall seed and right to host the Patriot League Tournament, while Duke has won eight in a row which began with a win over defending National Champion Loyola.
“It would mean a lot to Dan if he won an ACC Championship out of his year down at Duke and I know he’s got his eyes set on a National Championship,” said David. “That’s similar to my outlook for the rest of the season. We definitely want to bring home that Patriot League Championship. Not only bring it home, but hosting it at Lehigh my senior year is something special. Then after that, make a run and hopefully go late into May.”