Whether it’s playing at the professional level, conducting clinics, or coaching teams, Rachel Vallarelli leads a busy lacrosse life.
Vallarelli will be on the go even more this spring, since she recently added another role to her résumé.
Greenwich High School athletic director Gus Lindine recently hired Varrelli as coach of the school’s girls varsity lacrosse team.
A Hartsdale, N.Y., native, Vallarelli replaces Kaitlin Gaghan, who resigned after coaching the Cardinals for one season. Gaghan, who guided Greenwich to a record of 16-4 and appearances in the FCIAC and Class L tournament semifinals, accepted a head coaching job at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y. She was the recipient of the 2018 FCIAC Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year.
“I am so excited to join such a prestigious program such as Greenwich,” said Vallarelli, who expressed her interest to Lindine after finding out about the GHS coaching opening on social media. “Coaching in the FCIAC is something I’m really looking forward to and I’m excited about seeing the team be put to the test. Competition brings out the best in you, so I’m hoping to help the team rise to the occasion.”
Vallarelli brings a wealth of coaching and playing experience to her new position with the Cardinals. A 2011 graduate of School of the Holy Child in Rye, N.Y., she starred at goalie for the Gryphons’ lacrosse squad. She continued her lacrosse career at the University of Massachusetts, where she started in goal for three seasons, earning numerous accolades along the way.
During her goalie days at UMass, Vallarelli registered 48 victories and had a goals-against-average of 6.77 — both of which ranks second in program history. Her career goals-against-average is eighth in NCAA history and she was the NCAA save-percentage champion in 2015 (.523).
UMass won four consecutive Atlantic 10 championships while Vallarelli played goalie, which also saw her be selected as the conference’s Defender of the Week seven times and earn the 2015 Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year Award.
“Playing lacrosse at UMass was a phenomenal experience,” said Vallarelli, who earned all-conference honors twice and made the all-region team her senior season. “We were always one of the top schools and we had a lot of success, but at the end of the day, the most important thing were the friendships I made and competing with my teammates.”
After playing at UMass, Vallarelli took her lacrosse skills to the professional level, becoming a member of the Balitimore Ride, which is part of the United Women’s Lacrosse League. She recently concluded her second year with the Ride, whose season takes place during the summer months. Vallarelli also plays professionally for New York Athletic Club’s team.
“It’s nice to see that women have other avenues to play lacrosse other than Team USA,” Vallarelli said. “Being a member of the Baltimore Ride has been a lot of fun, I’ve met players, who are at different places in their lives.”
College coaching stops for Vallarelli included Fresno State (assistant coach, 2017-2018), Villanova University (assistant coach, 2016-2017) and Wagner College (volunteer assistant, 2015). Though she thoroughly enjoyed coaching at the collegiate level, Vallarelli has always been interested in guiding high school athletes.
“I love working with 18- to 22-year-olds, they are so passionate and committed,” Vallarelli said. “But another avenue I wanted to take was being a high school coach. I’ve always loved working with young kids and for me, there is no other experience like working with a young kid and helping mold them into who they want to be. Whatever career they want to pursue in life, I want to help them be the best at it and help them grow as people.”
Vallarelli said being a goalie is especially helpful in terms of coaching.
“The view that I take as a goalie is the best seat in the house,” she said. “When I talk to goalies, I can teach them how to see what the attacker is going to do and figure out how to set themselves up. If I am working with a bunch of attackers, I will say, ‘this is what I see as a goalie.’”
Besides her new job as coach at Greenwich High, Vallarelli provides instruction and clinics through her own lacrosse company and is the director of girls lacrosse at Chelsea Piers Connecticut. She also writes for Lacrosse All Stars and coaches at SoundCrosse Lacrosse Club.
Indeed, lacrosse keeps her occupied and she’s especially eager to begin her coaching tenure at Greenwich.
“I recently had my first team meeting, which was awesome,” Vallarelli said. “I coached a few girls when they were in freshman or eighth-graders when I was coaching with the Connecticut Grizzlies. I am so excited to lead this great group of girls. I can’t wait for the season to begin and see them play.”
The Cardinals’ new coach is planning on emphasizing speed and motion.
“I like fast-paced lacrosse, so ball movement will be important,” Vallarelli said. “We need to be in shape and ready to roll.”