NEW CANAAN — Giana Bruno and Chrissie Fiore became rivals because of proximity, friends and teammates because of their shared talents, and will remain adversaries both due to that ability and the common mindset of taking the road less traveled.
“It’s fun having that two-sided relationship,” said Bruno, a two-sport star at New Canaan. “You step on the field and you’re enemies. We never smile at each other.”
Bruno and Fiore, a three-sport standout at Darien, are kindred spirits who have much in common, save for the fact they only wear the same uniform during the summer, as members of the Ct. Grizzlies travel lacrosse team. Each was named last month to the All-FCIAC team at attack. They both have the ability to play another sport at the next level.
Instead, the two seniors will eventually end up at service academies. Naturally, Bruno is headed to Navy while Fiore will attend West Point.
“We always joke about that,” Fiore said. “Rivals for life.”
Service academies have become a more appealing option for male lacrosse players in the FCIAC, and are slowly catching the attention of females as well. Bruno’s former New Canaan teammate, Sami Stewart, was Army’s first female recruit and just finished her freshman season as the team’s fifth-leading scorer. Maddie Burns, the former Ridgefield star, started 12 games in goal for Army.
“Both service academies provide a lot of structure, and I really like that,” Bruno said. “You have something to do every second of the day. In the past decade the opportunities have grown for women, and I think that’s really big. I think when I get there the opportunities will get even better. And like Christine, my parents were very intimidated by it. They wanted me to have a normal college experience and I said no, I don’t want that. The second I stepped on that campus I just knew it.”
Bruno, who made her decision early as a sophomore, just months after Fiore had given a verbal commitment, was also looking at Georgetown, Princeton and Cornell. She said she received wise counsel from Stewart.
“I did talk to her and even though we were best friends, I didn’t want to commit just because of her,” Bruno said. “She would just tell me, make this decision on your own, I’m not going to help you with it because it’s your life. She loves it and is enjoying every second of it.”
Fiore was also considering two Ivy League schools, Princeton and Dartmouth.
“I had a better connection with the Navy coaches, loved going to camp,” Fiore said. “Summer seminar, which was like a week of boot camp, was the most fun I have had all summer. I loved everything about it. Even when they were screaming in my face I had a great time. It’s weird to say but totally awesome.”
Fiore is as outspoken as she is proud of being a non-conformist. Her grandfather is a former marine — and she said initially cast the lone family vote in favor of her choice.
“My family was hard no on naval academy,” Fiore said with a smile. “I always wanted something different. I didn’t want to go to a school that a lot of people were going to. That was big for me. That didn’t necessarily mean a service academy. I kind of both was into the idea of a service academy and what their missions are. Now my parents are totally cool with it, they think it’s going to be great.”
Fiore also won All-FCIAC honors in soccer and was second team in basketball, the sport she initially thought would be her primary focus until, she said, joining the Grizzlies. Bruno said the team also influenced her mindset after first considering hockey, a sport in which she also won all-league honors.
“You get to meet people all over Fairfield County; the exposure you get at the tournaments is all really good,” Bruno said.
Bruno and Fiore agree the nature of their relationship depends on the time of year.
“There’s minimal communication and then the Grizzlies start and we are dancing together and making videos,” Fiore said. “It’s completely different.”
Bruno is currently recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL. She expects to be 100 percent by the time hockey season starts.
Neither Bruno nor Fiore want to rush their final years of high school, but are excited about the future.
Bruno said she could see herself perhaps working for the FBI or CIA some day.
“I don’t like doing what a lot of other people do,” Bruno said. “Broaden my horizons a little bit and see what is out there. Not a lot of people can handle it, it is very difficult. There’s a lot of discipline.”
Fiore, consistent with her personality, said she will always hope for peace. But…
“I want to be in a submarine really badly,” she said with a laugh. “If World War III goes, I am going. It’s a sick thing to say, but yeah.”