By CHRIS CHRISTOPHER
Ranney School athletics director Natalie Gorman has announced the hiring of Rachel Lasda as the Panthers’ head girls lacrosse coach for the 2021 season.
“We are thrilled to be adding a coach with Rachel’s experience and expertise to our coaching staff,” Gorman said. “Rachel is a proven winner and is committed to instilling the type of team culture that builds a consistent championship program. She has tremendous knowledge of helping young players with their NCAA recruiting process. While at Oak Knoll High School, she coached 39 players who played Division I lacrosse and five players who competed at the Division III level. She brings incredible ties to the world of women’s lacrosse at the high school, club, collegiate and international levels. We are very excited to welcome her to our Panther family.”
Lasda, will join the Upper School Biology faculty at the Ranney School. She is also a licensed emergency medical technician, a Level I CrossFit coach at Ocean Athletics in Neptune City and a member of the coaching staff at the All Lax LLC Sports Club in West Long Branch.
“I was at a point in my life where I wanted to make a career change from working for a private company (Hackensack Meridian) to going into teaching and coaching,” Lasda said. “The Ranney School had teaching and coaching openings and things worked out in a real nice way. I taught at Oak Knoll and wanted to explore the medical field so I worked with Hackensack Meridian for either three or four years.
“The more I coached, the more I realized I missed the classroom. Through coaching and teaching, I try to inspire young people. I am excited to be joining the Ranney School and starting a new chapter in my life. I am excited to join an already strong community.”
All Lax directors Alex Marino and Megan Douty spoke highly of Lasda.
“Rachel Lasda has been a tremendous addition to our All Lax staff this year and we can only imagine the impact she will have on the Ranney School girls lacrosse program, Marino and Douty said. “Her coaching resume speaks for itself, but what we love the most about Rachel is her attention to detail and desire to help the next generation of athletes learn and develop through lacrosse.”
The 2020 season was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Lasda’s assistant coaches are Rachel Resnick and Ashley Trotta.
“Our assistant coaches are hosting online workouts and other activities,” Lasda said. “When things settle down, we will work with our players under state (NJSIAA) rules. Once school starts, I won’t be able to coach the team until the season starts next spring.
The Panthers suffered a losing season in 2019.
“I would say there is some building to do,” said Lasda, 31. “We have 29 players in our program. We can have 29 players on a varsity team. We are on the cusp of fielding a junior varsity team in addition to a varsity team next season. The decision as to whether we will have a junior varsity team is up to Mrs. Gorman.”
Lasda said she hopes she and her staff develop a positive culture.
“It’s all about doing things the right way and building a trusting culture where the girls work hard and see the benefits of success from their hard work,” Lasda said. “It’s a case of going back to basics, moving forward from there and continuing to build with the program. We need players who work hard and stay committed. They are the biggest things for me.
“I can teach lacrosse. The successful players are the ones who put their trust in me as a coach and have a great attitude and a great work ethic. They want to get better for themselves and also for the team.”
Lasda brings a wealth of experience to Hope Road after serving as the head coach of the Oak Knoll Royals for the past five years. She led the Royals to the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title in 2015 and 2019. She was named the NJ.com New Jersey Coach of the Year and the National Federation of High Schools Sectional Coach of the Year in 2015. Lasda guided the Royals to more than 100 wins and five straight Group I state titles.
She was a solid player, competing in the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup in 2013 and 2017 while representing the Latvian National Team. She is actively coaching Latvia, preparing for the next world championship in 2021.
“As a player and coach, she is both a fighter and a winner,” Latvian captain Ieva Opolska said. “Ranney hired a really wonderful coach and person. The Latvian National Team wishes her good luck and many victories in the new position!”
Lasda was an All-American at West Genesee High School, leading the team to a Section III title and the New York State championship.
“I played on powerhouse high school teams,” she said. “The way I run my team is similar to the way my high school teams were run. The teams were based on discipline doing things the right way, working hard and never being satisfied. That is the way I coach.
Lasda graduated from Villanova University in 2011. The Biology major scored 67 goals in four seasons for 13th on the Wildcats’ all-time scoring list.
“I am thrilled to be joining the Panthers at Ranney,” Lasda said. “Through this opportunity, I am looking forward to meeting the athletes, coaches, staff and all who make uo this special community. Together, we will be committed to learning, working hard, having fun and enjoying a successful 2021 season. Let’s go Panthers!”
Lasda, a Syracuse native, grew up in a lacrosse family. Her brother, Geoff, starred on the men’s team at Princeton University and her sister, Gretchen, was an All-American at Hobart and William Smith College. Their father is 100 percent Latvian (and the team’s biggest fan), allowing the Lasda sisters to connect to their heritage and be teammates on the Latvian National Team before continuing as co-coaches for the team.
NOTE: Ranney School Director of Marketing and Communications Sara Zavorek contributed to this report.