Having Excelled as a Goalie for Peddie, Georgetown, Former PDS Coach D’Andrea Makes NJ Lax Hall of Fame
RICHLY DESERVED: Rich D’Andrea makes a save during his career as a standout goalie for the Georgetown University men’s lacrosse team from 2003-6. D’Andrea, who also starred at the Peddie School and coached the Princeton Day School boy’s lax program to three Mercer County Tournament titles and two state Prep B crowns, was recently inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame. (Photo provided by Rich D’Andrea)
By Bill Alden
Although Rich D’Andrea played in the midfield when he took up lacrosse as a grade schooler in the early 1990s, it didn’t take him long to find a home at goalie.
“I always liked the idea of being on the field the whole game; there was something appealing about that,” said D’Andrea, who hails from Montgomery and was first exposed to the game when he visited his brother at a Princeton University lax camp.
“There just seemed to be an importance behind the position that I always appreciated. For me, I felt it was a way to make the team better; that is why I did it.”
Over the years, D’Andrea has made a lot of teams better. He starred for the Peddie School boys’ lax team where he helped the Falcons to a pair of state Prep A Titles, earned All-American honors and was twice named the New Jersey Goalie of the Year (2000, 2001). On the college level, D’Andrea was a three-year starter at Georgetown University, earning all-league honors and serving as a team captain. In 2014, he became the boys’ lax head coach at Princeton Day School and guided the Panthers to three Mercer County Tournament titles and two state Prep B crowns.
D’Andrea’s accomplishments on the field were recognized last month when he was inducted in the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
When he learned that he had been chosen as a member of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020, D’Andrea was taken aback.
“I was really surprised,” said D’Andrea, 39. “Part of me felt undeserving because I know some really qualified, really tremendous people that should be and soon will be in the Hall of Fame. I am really humbled.”
Reflecting on his high school career, D’Andrea enjoyed a tremendous experience at Peddie.
“I always felt like I was surrounded by good people and coaches,” said D’Andrea, who has returned to his alma mater to coach the Falcon boy’s lax program and work in admissions.
“It was holistic. I had great teachers, great dorm supervisors, everybody. I always felt really fortunate to be there as a student athlete and a teammate.”
D’Andrea met some great people on the lax field, most notably the program’s legendary head coach Bob Turco.
“Playing for coach Turco was a life-altering experience,” said D’Andrea.
“To work alongside somebody like that is something his players carry with them and try to emulate and create with their own players someday. You learn a lot about yourself, those are some formative years.”
Heading down to Georgetown, D’Andrea developed similar relationships.
“The thing that really clinched for Georgetown was that I had this experience playing for Bob Turco in high school then Dave Urick who was a legend in the lacrosse world. He was at Hobart during that string of 10 championships, and had built something special at Georgetown,” said D’Andrea.
“Those guys were coaches that cared about their players more as people than anything else. That similarity is something that I really gravitated to. When I met coach Urick and his staff, I knew that was going to be a great fit for me. I was fortunate that it worked out.”
As D’Andrea adjusted to the college game during his freshman year, he learned the ropes from Hoya veteran goalie Scott Schroeder.
“Scott was an All-American, a really talented goalie and a great mentor,” recalled D’Andrea.
“He was somebody that I could look up to. Adjusting to the speed, you work hard. Somewhere along the way I was lucky that it clicked into place and started to make sense.”
Becoming a starter as a sophomore, D’Andrea’s hard work paid off as he was an All-ECAC selection as a senior and earned the program’s Jason “Prof” Decker Unsung Hero and Coaches awards in in his final two seasons.
“I always had more of a presence out of the net than in the net,” said D’Andrea.
“I was never a great stopper but I could make plays out of the goal. I tried to tailor everything I did to those strengths and work on weaknesses.”
While the NCAA tournament runs stand as highlights of D’Andrea’s college experience, the off-field moments were special as well.
“We made the NCAA quarterfinals every year,” said D’Andrea. “In my senior year we lost to Maryland in overtime and in my junior year, we lost to Syracuse by a goal. It was an 8-7 game, they actually scored with four seconds left. We had a couple of close ones. I am still close friends with all of my college roommates. The highlights were the seasons but it was also the off-field bonding.”
Having coached in the Tri-State club program for years, D’Andrea joined the staff at PDS and quickly found a niche.
“Someone at Tri-State said PDS is looking for an assistant coach, so then I jumped on the staff there,” said D’Andrea, who served as an assistant to Rob Tuckman for three years and then took the helm of the program in 2014.
“I eventually loved coaching, it is tough to compare. I love coaching and playing.”
During his time guiding the program, D’Andrea led the Panthers to a 50-15 record as they won three MCT titles and two Prep B crowns.
“I was really happy for the kids; as a coach so much of my philosophy is based on the kids taking ownership of the process and making of the team what they want to make it,” said D’Andrea.
“As a coach, we try to pull the best out of our kids. They are the ones that actually go out and earn it. For me to have been a part of what they have built that was special. In a lot of ways as a head coach, that is where I cut my teeth. I was lucky to have great players and to have great coaches around me like Rob and Chris Izzard, guys that brought a lot to the program.”
After leaving PDS in 2018 and taking a hiatus to work in his family real estate business, D’Andrea was itching to get back into coaching and was thrilled to return to Peddie.
“The coaching piece and the teaching piece and working with kids for me is something that just makes me tick,” said D’Andrea, who has three sons — Casey, Liam, and Cameron — with his wife Erika, a 1998 Peddie alumna.
“It is something that I love to do. I find great purpose, great value, and enjoyment in working with kids.”
While the Falcons went 0-5 in 2021, D’Andrea enjoyed applying lessons he learned during his high school career.
“The program is going through a rebuild right now; we have a really great nucleus of guys to build around,” said D’Andrea.
“We are definitely on an upward trajectory right now. Guys are excited, they have really started to embrace the idea of creating a culture that they are taking ownership of. All of the things that I have learned from coach Turco, it has been neat to use them. You start from the beginning with the building up process. From where we started to where we finished were two different places. Now we have some momentum going forward.”
In assessing where he has been on his lacrosse journey as he headed into the Hall of Fame, D’Andrea believes there are exciting things to come.
“One of the things I love about lacrosse is that at the end of the spring, it is a time to reflect a little bit,” said D’Andrea.
“This has challenged me to do that a little more in ways that I have looked at the arc of my career. As strange as this sounds and I really mean this, I hope my best lacrosse experiences or contributions are in the future. I love coaching, I love being a part of this, working with kids. The accolades are the accolades but that is not why I have done it. It is a great life work and something that I enjoy.”
And the part of that work that D’Andrea has enjoyed the most is the folks he has worked with along the way.
“I am who I am because of the people who have been around me,” said D’Andrea.
“I have been really, really lucky to be surrounded by some good ones. I am just trying to have that same impact on people that I am working with now.”