UMass alum Rachel Vallarelli becomes first woman to sign with Professional Box Lacrosse Association

Staff Writer
Published: 12/15/2022 6:27:07 PM

Since Rachel Vallarelli has graduated from UMass in 2015, she’s barely stopped moving.

Vallarelli was a star when she played for the Minutewomen’s lacrosse team, racking up a number of accolades. Her senior season, she was the nation’s No. 1 ranked goalie, was named to the IWLA All-Northeast Region Second team and the Atlantic 10’s Defensive Player of the Year, and finished with the eighth-best goals against average in NCAA history (6.77).

She made history again recently, signing with the New England Chowderheads of the Professional Box Lacrosse Association, a new professional indoor lacrosse league that will debut at the end of December.

“(Tryouts) were from six to eight a.m. in New Hampshire. Yeah, it was a little tough – Starbucks was not open… I showed up and got to work,” Vallarelli said. “We started off with some drills to get everybody going in that first half hour and then we split up into teams and we played to showcase our skills and in front of the coaching staff. So I think with any of those tryouts, I just look at it as another opportunity to play the game that I love and with people that I really enjoy being around.”

Though the league is brand-new, Vallarelli made headlines as the first woman to sign with a team; it’s also Vallarelli’s first professional contract, though she’s very familiar with the world of both men’s and women’s lacrosse.

“I’ve had other experiences in different leagues and with different teams. So, (it’s my) first professional contract sign, yes, but I’ve also played some semi pro box and stuff over the summers as well,” Vallarelli said. “Not the first time playing with guys and, even when I was in college at UMass going into my sophomore year, I played men’s field lacrosse over the summer, just to keep my skills sharp as a goalie.”

Currently, Vallarelli is a part of five different lacrosse teams – besides the Chowderheads, she plays with the WestRock Warhogs (NABLL), Team Bullseye (BBLL) and the Dead Rabbits Lacrosse Club, all men’s box lacrosse teams, as well as the New York Athletic Club, a women’s field lacrosse team.

Lacrosse wasn’t always the sport Vallarelli wanted to devote her life to – for a while, she wanted to be a pro basketball player, donning the UConn jersey in hopes of going first overall in the WNBA draft to the New York Liberty, her home state team. Those hopes were dashed when she stopped growing at around 5-foot-4 so she needed to find a new sport.

Lacrosse fell into her lap almost by accident – a family friend played the game, and when then seventh-grader Vallarelli noticed, her competitive side came out and wanted to be better than him.

“The first time I started to play, we were in line drills or shuttles. We’re passing and I could not catch and throw the ball to save my life….I really think it was 30 seconds of me really trying to catch and throw and I was like, ‘I can’t do this’... I went to my coaches and I was like, ‘I cannot catch and throw with this stick. Do you have something bigger?’” Vallarelli said. “I had no idea.… and someone’s like, you could be the goalie.’”

She was officially hooked. She started with field hockey, but watching a men’s box lacrosse game for her 16th birthday at Madison Square Garden sparked a second love for box lacrosse as well. Her love for the games knows no bounds – if driving to tryouts for the PBLA at 6 a.m. sounds extreme, try making a four-hour drive every week through Boston rush hour to play for the NBLL, something Vallarelli did earlier in her career.

Vallarelli isn’t just a player – she’s done stints as a coach at various levels and currently also runs her own business, RV Lacrosse. She’s also an avid photography, focusing on – you guessed it – lacrosse. It’s just a fraction of her life, but Vallarelli loves it, even if she does rely on Google Calendar a little more than your average person.

“My mom always said there was like something off with other sports (I played), but then lacrosse just kind of (stuck),” Vallarelli said. “A saying that I have is that the people make the place, and lacrosse is not a place per se, but I think the people that make up the lacrosse community, and especially the box lacrosse community, are really amazing people.”

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