GROTON -- Townsend native and North Middlesex alum Sarah Valacer is the new face of the Groton-Dunstable Lady Crusaders' girls' lacrosse team. When the Lady Crusaders started practice Tuesday afternoon inside the Groton-Dunstable Regional Middle School North Gymnasium, there was a familiar face standing next to Sarah Valacer -- it was her father, Charlie Valacer.
Charlie Valacer will assist his daughter while heading the junior varsity program this season. Sarah Valacer served under former head coach Gary Kraemer last spring. Sarah Valacer's playing experience spans from her high school days at North Middlesex and the collegiate level for Division 3 Keene State (N.H.) Valacer was captain of the Lady Patriots' and a Telegram and Gazette League All-Star. The Keene State Class of 2012 graduate played defense the Owls and scooped up 26 ground balls in her senior season.
"We offered the job to Sarah last year, but at the time she didn't feel as if she was seasoned enough to move into that varisty position," Groton-Dunstable athletic director Mike McCaffrey said. "She felt more comfortable breaking in at the JV level to see how things went and develop some confidence. When Gary Kraemer stepped away early this fall, Sarah was there to step right in."
Sarah Valacer being only two-years removed from the collegiate game, knows a thing-or-two about what coaches at the next level are looking for when they are scouting a potential recruit.
"Having just graduated I know stuff that they are doing in college," she said. "Knowing what college coaches are looking for at the next level beyond high school is a big advantage."
Sarah Valacer is no stranger to coaching at the varsity level. She, along with former head coach Gary Kraemer would run both the junior varsity and varsity practices together. Sarah Valacer intends to bring a defense- first mentality to a Lady Crusaders' program that advanced to the Division 1 Central Mass. semifinals a season-ago.
"Building from the defense up is pretty much my game-plan," the first-year head coach said. "Our defense is rebuilding. We lost three key players on defense, but Shelly Herlihy is a senior who was a big threat on defense last year."
The new head coach will have some valuable weapons at her disposal on the offensive side of the ball in seniors Olivia Rubeski, Olivia Penney and Nicki Wilkinson.
"We are looking good offensively," Sarah Valacer said. "Algonquin and Westborough, those are our big games to really test ourselves. I think rebuilding the defense and working in transition will be big keys in keeping up with them. Our seniors' big goal is to beat Algonquin at least once."
In terms of working with her father, the young coach is ecstatic for the opportunity.
"He brings a lot of experience in coaching that I don't have," she said. "He has been a big help in telling me things I wouldn't normally have known. He works at the school, so the girls know him. For the older girls knowing the both of us is a big change, because they have had new coaches each of their four years. I am very excited for the season to start."