For Coach Vito, It's About 'The Right Fit'
Lasell Women's Soccer Coach Vito La Francesca
Vito La Francesca must be doing something right. Lasell's award-winning head Women's Soccer coach has led his teams to six consecutive GNAC (Greater Northeast Athletic Conference) championships (2010 to 2015). As this issue of Leaves went to press, La Francesca's Lasers were preparing for the NCAA Tournament.
The ability to build such a successful program begins with shaping an effective 26-person roster each year-a process that takes a combination of talent, experience, a good eye, a lot of finessing and a little bit of luck. "When we recruit, we sell the College first and the program second," Coach Vito says. "We try and build trust with each player and parent we recruit. We want our student athletes to be successful-first in the classroom and then on the field," he continues. "Every year, Assistant Coaches Jim Swift, Christine Silva and I challenge ourselves to seek out students who are smarter, stronger, faster and more skillful than the year before."
In order to do so, La Francesca casts his net primarily in the New England area (international efforts have not proven cost-effective), where he works closely with a network of high school and club coaches, attending soccer showcases and high school tournament games, to scout potential players.
La Francesca also runs Soccer Prospect Clinics that allow high school students who aspire to play in college to get a better feel for Lasell as well as the rigors of playing collegiate soccer. Leaves caught up with the energetic coach at one such clinic on a steamy summer day on Grellier Field-in between overseeing college-style drills and practices where the invited aspirants demonstrated their skill at dribbling, corner kicks, saves, shots on goal and headers. The young women arrived at the field with size 5 soccer balls, shin guards, cleats and plenty of water. La Francesca, Swift and Silva look for competitors "who will be successful academically and who have a strong work ethic, both on and off the field." (Off the field, Prospect Clinic participants toured the Lasell campus and learned about admission requirements.)
The goal each season (no pun intended) is to select eight-to-10 players who are, quite simply, "the right fit," La Francesca says.
Among the roster of La Francesca-coached Lasers in recent years are 20 players who've been named to the GNAC All-Conference, including Lasell's All-New England Lynch twins (Bridget and Kayla, Class of 2015).
A Watertown, MA native, and former soccer player, La Francesca lives in Reading, MA with his wife, Laura, and their four young children. By day, he's a senior engineering manager at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He holds a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Wentworth Institute of Technology. Prior to joining the Lasell staff nearly a decade ago, La Francesca coached at Dana Hall School, Babson College and his alma mater, Watertown High School.
"We set high expectations for our players," he says. "It's part of the job to expect everyone in the program to be an expert in her particular area of responsibility, to continually refine her skills, to be committed to the team." One way to keep the collective energy alive all season long, he adds, is "to make the practices harder than the games."
Through nine seasons at the helm of Lasell's winning team, what is La Francesca's biggest coaching thrill? Without hesitation, he says, "beating Amherst College (ranked 12th in the nation) 3-1 three years ago."
While winning is clearly important to Coach Vito, it isn't everything. "Most importantly," he tells Leaves, "we want our players to have lots of fun playing the beautiful game of soccer." And if the spirited scene on Grellier Field is any indication, that's one goal that's guaranteed.