by Zachary Kraft
Picture a soccer coach who's been in the league for 14 seasons, all of which ended in postseason berths. During that span, that span, the coach compiled a 176-73-15 overall, and 121-23-10 in the conference, including eight straight tournament championships and NCAA tournament berths. To sweeten the pot, this coach led the only win by a Lasell team ever in the NCAA tournament in 2012.
Elite numbers, agreed? These are the coaching statistics that Vito La Francesca, the Lasers' head coach for women's soccer, has achieved during his career at Lasell.
La Francesca has been immersed in the sport since he can remember. His father played semiprofessional soccer in Italy, a passion he exposed Vito to when he was five years old. Vito had high hopes for his playing career, and had the desire to try out for his college's team at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston.
However, things didn't go according to plan. Just two weeks into his freshman year, La Francesca partially tore his MCL in both knees. Unfortunately for him, doctors advised that he cease playing soccer immediately.
Despite the major setback, La Francesca's passion for the game wasn't relinquished. Not long after the injury, he contacted the soccer program in his hometown of Watertown, Mass, seeking a volunteer opportunity to coach. Despite specifically requesting to coach the boys' team, he was assigned to help lead a girl's youth age 13 squad. Unbeknownst to him at the time, this would end up being a blessing in disguise for the new coach.
"From then on, I found that I enjoyed and preferred coaching women squads," said La Francesca. "I found that the women tended to be much more team oriented. I felt like there were fewer people trying to be the superstar of the team. More often than not, the camaraderie of the women's squad was stronger than that of the male squads I had been a part of."
After beginning his coaching career as a volunteer, Vito eventually was given an offer to be an assistant coach at Mount Alvernia High School, an all-girls school in Newton, Mass. From there, La Francesca's stout reputation as a head coach steadily continued to mold. He became co-head coach with his twin brother for Watertown High School, and was able to lead a couple successful seasons there as well. La Francesca realized he wanted to keep climbing the ranks, and not get stuck at the high school level. He and his brother became co-head coaches for Daniel Hall, an all-girls prep school, and continued head coaching for club teams.
In 2006, a collegiate opportunity was offered to La Francesca at Babson College. La Francesca served there as an assistant coach and goalkeeping coach. Just one year later, Lasell entered the Great Northeast Athletic Conference and had an opening for head coach of its women's soccer team. Despite there only being nine players on the roster when he was offered the position, La Francesca took on the challenge.
When asked about the driving key to his success, La Francesca said, "Recruitment. I've always been heavily interested in the recruiting process, and there's two things I'm looking for in a player. One, are they smart academically and personably? Two, are they versatile on the field? I like players that I can move around the field at will. Mack Kingman, a current assistant coach with us, began her collegiate playing career as a midfield forward, and left as an All-American defender. It makes it harder for the opposition to game-plan if you have a diverse cast of talent."
Coach La Francesca with the 2017 captains receiving the GNAC Championship TrophyLa Francesca's evolution in his soccer career is a memorable one. To go from being a promising player, to suffering a career-ending injury, and then to become the Lasers' most successful coach is nothing but remarkable. He helped lead the Lasers to eight GNAC championships from 2010-17, and he doesn't see things slowing down anytime soon.
"It's the perfect situation for me to be here," He said. "I work another job, and it's great to be able to balance this with everything else in my life."
The student-athletes and faculty at Lasell couldn't be happier with Coach La Francesca's presence.
"He is passionate about the game and has built a very successful program here, winning eight GNAC Championships," said athletic director Kristy Walter. "I enjoy watching his teams compete, and the women love to play for him. Coach La Francesca is a great recruiter and his first-year classes include anywhere from 8-12 new players/year. His team also enjoys a high retention rate which helps build a competitive team every year. I enjoy working with Coach LaFrancesca, and I hope that he continues to stay at Lasell for years to come."
Serena Speight, a junior forward for the Lasers, couldn't agree more with Walter's comments.
"I think he's probably one of the best coaches I've had in my career playing soccer," Speight said. "He can be really hard on us as a team, but it's because he knows the potential we have and knows we can do great things. He gives so much time and effort to the team, and his whole heart into the women's soccer program. He's made me an all-around better player."
Coach La Francesca unfortunately will not be able to lead the Lasers in any games for the 2020 fall season. However, he is hungry to return, and has been ensuring that the team continues to practice hard under the COVID-19 guidelines. If you're a gambler, betting on La Francesca and the Lasers to return to elite status next season would be a safe play. He's a key puzzle piece to Lasell, and it will be a sight to see once they get to return for games again.
(Zachary Kraft is a senior Communications major at Lasell with an emphasis on Public Relations and Sports Writing, and an intern in the Athetic Communications Office)