Joe Branciforte has the distinction of being the first Owls men’s lacrosse player to be inducted into the Keene State Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame. “I was very surprised,” Branciforte said of the honor. “It was com­pletely unexpected.”

Standing just five-foot-five and weighing 145 pounds, Branciforte used his speed and agility to become one of the all-time top attack men for Keene State, finishing his four-year career (2001-04) with 125 goals, 74 assists, and 199 points.

“If you’re not able to muscle people you do have to utilize your strengths, and Joe was just so small and quick and very good off the ball to receive passes,” said KSC Coach Mark Theriault. “Joe was very shifty out there and he created a lot of opportunities for himself.”

A soccer and baseball player growing up in Cromwell, Connecticut, Branciforte didn’t pick up a lacrosse stick until his sophomore season at Xavier High School. He fell in love with the sport, scoring the winning goal in his first junior varsity game. “I had never played the sport before in my life, and it was such a rush,” he said. “I knew right then and there that I wanted to get better at it and I wanted to be good at it.”

Branciforte did get better at it. Despite playing on a depleted squad and suffering a series of injuries as a freshman, he and the Owls were destined for better things.

Energized by a strong recruiting class his sophomore season, the Owls improved to 12-3, including a first-ever win over Little East Conference rival Plymouth State. “I don’t know if it put us on the radar, but all of a sudden people were turning their heads because we won our first LEC game,” said Branciforte. “That game was extremely memorable for me, just knowing how much it meant to the upperclassmen.”

The team’s quarterback, Branciforte helped lead the Owls up the conference standings and regional rankings.

“After I got my first recruiting class we became successful, and Joe was the anchor of that group,” said Theriault. “He was certainly one of the stepping stones for greater things for the program.”

Branciforte might have been small of stature, but he certainly was noticed by conference coaches, who selected him three times for the All-LEC team and named him the offensive player of the year his senior season.

Coaches weren’t the only ones keeping an eye on him. Branciforte, who was first in assists and second in goals and points at the end of his KSC career, was able to put up impressive numbers while dodging anxious defenders looking to get a piece of him. “You try not to get hit and create space between yourself and your defender so your hands are available to pass, catch, and take shots,” he said.

Leading the Owls to three consecutive trips to the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament, Branciforte never got to feel the exhilaration of winning a Little East title and an NCAA tournament berth. “Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t the best for him,” said Theriault. “I think he would have done some amazing things with those teams that won LEC championships and went to the NCAAs. But he was definitely an integral part of the program at the inception of the sport.”

“I love the program and I love the sport and I was glad to be a part of it,” said Branciforte. “In just a short period of time it went from being nothing to something that is meaningful. KSC turns a lot of heads now and it’s nice to have been a small part of the history that made it happen.”