Miami Sports Day

ACC’s Gracie Lachowecki: Scoring on the Field and in the Classroom

Photo by Miami Athletics

By RYAN MURPHY

Miami Athletics

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Division I athlete and nursing major are two descriptors you do not often hear together in the same sentence. However, Gracie Lachowecki, a senior forward on the University of Miami soccer team, not only embodies both of these traits, but excels in each.

The three-year starter from Evansville, Ind., came to Miami knowing it was one of the only schools that would allow her to pursue her two passions—soccer and nursing—simultaneously. In her first three seasons, Lachowecki has played in 50 of 53 matches, starting 42, and earned both All-ACC Second Team and All-ACC Academic Team honors following her junior campaign in 2015.

A quick glance at Lachowecki’s stats and accolades makes her on-field success quite apparent. What the stats do not show, though, are her versatility and endeavors off the field. As one of just five Hurricane student-athletes majoring in nursing, Lachowecki regularly misses team practices due to mandatory clinical rotations at Miami Hospital and Jackson Memorial Hospital. The eight-plus-hour shifts of being on her feet may come the day before or after a game, but Lachowecki, who has a 3.628 GPA, never misses one.

“My teammates knew that I wasn’t going to be there, but they always made sure that I was on the same page as them,” Lachowecki said of missing practice. “Film helped a lot too. [Head coach Mary-Frances Monroe and I] would sit down and do film and I would get to see [what we worked on in practice] on the screen.”

To make up for the lost field time, Monroe, Miami’s fourth-year coach, and her staff set up one-on-one sessions with her throughout the week. They try to hone in on specific skills—like finishing and shooting—rather than broader strategic concepts, so that Lachowecki can best execute when she gets the opportunity to join her teammates on the field.

Monroe, a former U.S. Women’s National Team member, never doubted Lachowecki’s desire and passion as a player.

“It takes someone with credibility to earn respect . . . Not every player can do what Gracie does,” Monroe said. “Not every player can come to training individually with her coaches and know you have to run fitness and know that you have to do something different than what the team’s doing to be successful. She just is unbelievable.”

As if nursing school alone has not posed a big enough challenge to her on-field success, Lachowecki also switched positions after just a few matches with the Hurricanes as a freshman.

She made her living as a striker at Reitz Memorial High School, logging 113 goals and 47 assists during her prep career, earning both first team all-conference and first team all-city honors in each of her four seasons. In 2013, as a senior, Lachowecki was the Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year and Indiana Coaches Soccer Association “Miss Soccer” honoree.

While her prowess as a forward ensured her early playing time up top as a freshman, Monroe quickly realized after a handful of matches that Lachowecki was one of the few players athletic and fast enough to help Miami on its short-handed defensive side.

With only minimal experience on the defensive end of the field, Lachowecki was immediately thrust into the spotlight in a road showdown against ACC rival and No. 12-ranked Duke. Despite losing the contest, it was a momentous day for both player and coach, allowing them to build a great deal of trust between each other.

“I remember her looking at me almost wanting me to take her out of the game,” Monroe recalled. “I said, ‘You’re not coming out. You need to sort it out.’ And she turned around and was like, ‘Okay.’ I gave her a few tools to fix things that she was making mistakes on, which is understandable as a freshman playing your first ACC game against Duke, at Duke. She was just fantastic, and I knew, from that day forward, she was going to have an unbelievable career.”

Over the rest of that season and the next, Monroe would sparingly mix Lachowecki in as a forward, but for the most part, she became a staple in the Hurricanes’ defensive back line. Not only did she become one of the team’s most reliable defenders, but Lachowecki also proved her durability with fifteen 90-plus-minute performances in her first two years.

While the position switch was beneficial for Miami’s defense, the offense sacrificed a proven scorer. Monroe moved Lachowecki back to her natural spot before her junior season, in hopes that she could help the Hurricanes put more balls in the back of the net. She constantly chided that if Lachowecki did not score goals, she would move her back to defense.

The playful threats from her coach were all the motivation Lachowecki needed. Despite missing two games due to injury, she netted a team-high 12 goals in the 2015 campaign, good for third in the ACC and No. 38 in the nation. Not only was she a great scorer, but she came through in the biggest moments, netting three game-winners.

Lachowecki’s season, which was one of the finest in program history, was highlighted by a two-week stretch of unbelievable play, in which she was recognized as ACC Player of the Week twice. The first honor came after scoring the golden goal in double overtime against No. 4/14 Notre Dame, her brother’s school at the time and a home state program, in a previously scoreless game. The goal gave the Hurricanes their biggest win of the 2015 season.

Two matches later, against NC State, Lachowecki delivered her first career hat trick, leading the Hurricanes back from a 2-0 first half deficit. Knotted at 2-2 in the second overtime period, Lachowecki sent her game-high ninth shot attempt past the Wolfpack goalkeeper for the game-winner.

In Miami’s final road affair, at Boston College, Lachowecki delivered one of the best individual performances by any Division I player all season. In a heartbreaking overtime defeat, Lachowecki found the back of the net four times, including scoring three goals in a 15-minute stretch of the first half. Her four goals tied her with two others for the most goals in a single game in a Power Five conference all year.

While the season did not finish the way the team wanted, the Hurricanes made big strides in 2015 and seven of their losses were by only one goal. The team has come a long way since Lachowecki and Monroe’s first year in 2013, losing only two matches by more than two goals in 2015, as opposed to 10 over the previous two years.

“I think our ultimate goal this season is to make the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament,” Lachowecki said of the upcoming 2016 campaign. “Two years ago, we were losing games 4-0 and 3-0, so it wasn’t like we were almost there, but last year, I think losing so many games by one and in overtime, it was heartbreaking because we knew we were good enough, but we weren’t getting the results. So, I think this year I have a pretty good feeling about.”

In her last year, Lachowecki’s nursing schedule will get even more hectic with clinical rotations two times every week, likely causing her to miss even more practice than usual. She has no plans of letting up, though, and looks to improve upon her stellar junior season by continuing to put goals in the net and “creating more chances for teammates.”

Lachowecki will have her first chance to do just that when the Hurricanes get their season underway with exhibitions at UCF Aug. 11 and home against FC Surge FL, of the Women’s Premier Soccer League, Aug. 14. Miami kicks off its regular season Aug. 19 against North Florida and faces Ohio State Aug. 26 in the home opener.

Just as they did when she chose Miami, Lachowecki’s priorities for her last hurrah as a Hurricane revolve around soccer and nursing. She is not worried about potentially playing professionally, or where her nursing career may take her. For now, she is just focused on her final collegiate season and graduating in May.

“I definitely want to finish what I started here,” Lachowecki said in regards to her final season and getting her degree.

If last year’s success, both athletically and academically, is any indication, Lachowecki certainly seems well on her way to not just finishing what she started, but leaving a lasting legacy at The U . . . on the field and in the hospital.

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