One of the most decorated players in the sport’s history, in many ways Rachael (Becker) DeCecco is the game’s best kept secret.
The Tewaaraton trophy is annually awarded to the nation’s top male and female player at the conclusion of each lacrosse season. It’s been bestowed upon the brightest stars in the college game since its inception in 2001, and household names the likes of Jen Adams, Mike Powell, Kyle Harrison and Taylor Cummings are etched in the fabric of the attack and midfield-heavy recipient list.
There’s only been one defender — male or female — awarded the Tewaaraton Trophy since its establishment, and she’s rarely talked about; but those close to Rachael Becker, now DeCecco, know that she wouldn’t have it any other way.
For DeCecco, it’s always been about the team.
“Rachael was, and still is, in her element when working in a team environment,” says Chris Sailer, who’s entering her 35th season at the helm of the Princeton Tigers. “She loved her Tiger teammates and was surrounded by a great group of defenders and middies who thrived in the high-pressure, early sliding, dynamic defensive style we played at the time. She was at her best when she was making plays with her teammates — closing an aggressive double, anticipating the pass and making the interception, or simply doing her job and forcing an opponent into a low angle shot.
“The defense was incredibly tight and took so much pride in their play as a unit. They had the freedom to take risks and were always ready to back each other up. Although she was clearly a super-star in so many ways, it was really the team play of the unit as a whole and the trust they had in each other, that made our defense so effective.”
“Part of it, I’m sure, is the way I was raised,” says Rachael (Becker) DeCecco, former Princeton national champion and Team USA standout — now a wife, mother of four and current Head of PLL Academy. “But [Princeton] was just an overall team environment — no one person was more important than the team. A team wins and loses together. Ultimately, defense is not an individual thing. You can’t succeed as an individual defender whereas I think, in some ways, you can succeed as an individual attacker.
“All the leaders in my life stressed that. My parents, my coaches, of course Chris [Sailer] — it’s about the team, and what we do together… Obviously, I want to be successful as an individual, but it doesn’t mean nearly as much as when you’re successful with a bunch of people that you love and care about. For me, that’s what it was always about.”