From Hitting Balls to Catching Them: The Story of An International Grad Student Who Changed Her Path


Valci during her first game; against Wilimington University (Image credit: STAC Athletics)

Brittany Lionarons, Contributor

“From Rome, Italy… Number 9 Flaminia Valci…” 

Wait, from Rome?

It’s not exactly the sort of player introduction you’d expect to hear at a college lacrosse game, especially one at St. Thomas Aquinas College.

 The opposing team’s players look confused.

This is the story of 23-year-old Flaminia Valci, born and raised in Italy, the country of pasta, pizza, and wine, but definitely not lacrosse.

In fact, Valci had not even heard about the sport until recently. She tried a number of sports as a young girl in Italy and discovered she was very athletic.

She participated in horse riding, swimming, and excelled in tennis. Lacrosse was not an option. Once she got to high school, Valci decided to try a year abroad. She wanted a different experience and felt like she wasn’t growing as a person and an athlete in Italy anymore.

“I wanted to go overseas to see what more I could learn as a person and an athlete,” Valci said during the interview. 

Valci has always been ambitious and never felt like she was done exploring. Her passion emerges during an interview in the Romano Student Center at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill.  

The decision to move abroad for a year turned into four years of high school on the Spanish island of Mallorca competing against top tennis players while being trained by Rafael Nadal and other top coaches.

After finishing high school in 2017, Valci had an opportunity to take her tennis career to the next level in the United States. She chose to play for Augusta University in Georgia.

Unfortunately, her college career did not go as smoothly as her high school career.

Valci felt more pressure, and coaches were tougher. She was far from home. She experienced long nights, tough games and practices, and, at times, even lost her love for the game — a feeling many college athletes can relate to.

Valci tried to change her luck by transferring to STAC.

It worked. As a Spartan, she twice made it to the ECC finals.  She enjoyed playing again but knew the end of her college career was coming soon.

Few could have anticipated her next move. Moving from Italy to Spain and then America was one thing. Big steps, but understandable.

However, when Valci shared the news that she was going to join the lacrosse team while pursuing a graduate degree, her friends thought she was pranking them.

There was no way a girl from Rome who had never heard about the sport in her life was now going to play lacrosse, never mind at the college level.

However, the determination on her face and the hours she spent practicing outside with her boyfriend quickly showed that Valci was taking lacrosse very seriously.

Small and shy, Valci is determined when it comes to athletics.

“I never would have thought that my life would look like this, but I am glad it does,” Valci said with a smile.  “Of course, next to being happy about the new experience, there are also a lot of things I have to get used to.”

First, she is now playing an actual team sport, very different from playing an individual sport like tennis. She’s gained teammates who will be friends for life.

The experience has helped Valci grow as a person and an athlete, an opportunity she doesn’t take for granted.

But it hasn’t all been the stuff of fairy tales.

Valci is not the only new girl on the team. There are Dutch players, a Spaniard and even a Jamaican player on the team. All of these girls are new to lacrosse, and thus going through the same struggles as Valci.

The team has had to endure tough losses, which can lead to internal struggles on the team. A young team filled with players that have never played before will need time to grow.

However, even though she’s new to the sport and playing against experienced players, Valci shows no insecurity. Every game she walks onto the field with a game face covered with black stripes on her cheeks to intimidate opponents.                                                 

“Even though we lose a lot, I would not want to change this experience for the world,” she said. “It helps me and the rest of the team grow closer to each other and as people.”

The chances of playing another ECC final are small, but her growth as a person and an athlete is bigger than she could have ever imagined.

What the future holds is unclear. Valci wants to stay connected to lacrosse when she leaves college. Who knows what other sports might be in her future?

Valci during the line up, ready to give it her all on the field (Image credit: STAC Athletics).