Rachel Romanowsky: The Evolution of a Bantam
Hartford, Conn. - Rachel Romanowsky had her Letter of Intent in hand, ready to be postmarked and delivered to area code 80208. The University of Denver had offered the tall and athletic All-American talent a scholarship with the hopes that she would bring her winning ways to the rocky mountains. It was nearly set in stone that the New Hampshire native would be transplanting out west before news of her acceptance to Trinity College had landed in The Granite State. The trip to the post office was put on hold.
Romanowsky was at a crossroads in life, and the best way to handle it was dinner with mom. The opportunity to play lacrosse at the highest level in the world (there are no professional women's lacrosse leagues) was suddenly being challenged by a small Division III school, and the decision was proving to be no piece of cake for Romanowsky. So she ordered dessert.
The rest is history -- some made, some yet to be made -- for Romanowsky, who opted to make her next home in Hartford, Connecticut, where she remembers telling Head Coach Kate Livesay that her goal was to win a National Championship.
"I was not sure if I really believed it was even possible, but I remember saying that, and I know I wanted it," Romanowsky, who said that Livesay was the only Division III coach to strike a chord with her. "Now, actually being in position for the opportunity is really amazing."
Four years later, Romanowsky has cemented a spot in the record books as one of the program's most prolific players in its history. The 2008 NESCAC Rookie of the Year, Romanowsky is a four-time All-NESCAC Player, and a two-time All-American selection before this season, in which she's recorded a personal-best and a team-high 71 points on 31 goals and a career-high 40 assists heading into this weekend's NCAA Tournament action. For all that she's done for Trinity lacrosse, it was everything else that brought her here.
"My mom asked me where I would be happiest if sports were not a factor," she said a day before the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tapped her as the league's Player of the Year. "I thought that Trinity was the right fit for me for everything other than lacrosse."
The optimistic Romanowsky is lighthearted in nature, which somehow compliments her athletic prowess. She was an All-State basketball and lacrosse player in high school, has sailed competitively on a national level with the Edgartown Race Team, and could have just as easily been an accomplished tennis player, had she gone that route, given her success in the sport before high school.
"Rachel is a unique mix of talent, fun and determination," Livesay said. "She has had to come back from two season ending injuries and has never complained about it. I think we all want to achieve big things this year to make Rachel's final season a very special one, since she's done so much for all of us as coaches and teammates."
Romanowsky has had other hurdles to overcome before she could jump, or even walk. She was diagnosed with toxoplasmosis before birth, which often leads to birth defects, including permanent vision and learning problems. Fortunately, the side effects that she was born with were relatively minor – she has trouble with short term memory ("I couldn't tell you what I wore yesterday, but I can remember things from years ago"). The disability has not seemed to be a roadblock to the ambitious Romanowsky.
"I'm the type to just jump into things and hope for the best," she said.
It helps explain the reason that Romanowsky will be graduating with a degree in studio arts with a minor in architecture, without ever having taken a drawing or painting class before college ("Having no background was sort of an advantage because I had the chance to learn from scratch"). In addition, Romanowsky, who is half British, is a licensed Coast Guard Merchant Marine Officer. She has played the piano competitively since she was six, the flute when she was young, and even picked up the ukulele over the last few years. Her ability to confidently approach and pick up new things may or may not be related to a lack of short term memory, but either way, that confidence certainly rubs off on her teammates.
"Rachel is the confidence behind our team," Livesay said. "She makes everyone on our team better with her unselfish play...her undiscriminating desire to share the ball has helped our team become more confident, more threatening and more successful."
In an early-season game against Colby in Florida, Trinity trailed 4-1 early in the match, and Romanowsky recalls looking at a teammate who flashed a funny face, which is testament to the confidence and character of this team.
"During games, even when we're losing, everyone is laughing and having fun," Romanowsky said. "We're not out there to go undefeated. We're out there because we love the game."
Romanowsky, a product of Choate Rosemary Hall and the Derryfield School, says it's the people on the team, and the things that she's learned from them that have made this year special. Because of these great relationships, she says, Romanowsky thinks she made the right decision when eating dessert with her mom four years ago.
"Going undefeated," she said, "is just icing on the cake."
Romanowsky has her "fingers crossed" that she won't be at her own graduation this year. Instead, she hopes to be playing in the National Championship game in New York, with the goal of bringing back a trophy to Hartford, Connecticut, where her diploma will be waiting for her, no matter what happens.