Now in her 19th season as head coach of the girls varsity lacrosse team at Lancaster High School, Julie Buccieri has dominated the lacrosse scene, leading the group to 15 sectional championships and a state semifinals appearance in 2008. While her impact on the field has been evident, it has also been felt by countless young women in the area.
Buccieri’s connections and commitment to the game remain strong as she continues to help grow the sport. For her accomplishments on and off the field, she has been named the recipient of the John Faller Memorial Award for the 2022-23 season.
The award is given annually to a coach or administrator who positively impacts youth lacrosse in Western New York.
“I’m super honored,” Buccieri said. “I know Ed Greenway won it last year, and he is a coach that I really look up to. I have asked him for advice over the years on coaching, coaching your own kids, and things like that. He is such a great ambassador for Western New York lacrosse, so I was super honored to receive the same award that he did.”
The John Faller Memorial Award was established last season to honor Faller’s lasting legacy. Faller, a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and the Western New York Lacrosse Hall of Fame, dedicated his life to education and coaching before passing away unexpectedly in 2019.
To learn more about the award and Faller’s coaching career, click here.
Although lacrosse has played such an important role in Buccieri’s life, she didn’t grow up playing the sport she now loves. It wasn’t until she started playing lacrosse in 10th grade at Lancaster when she realized just how special the experience would be.
“They didn’t have modified at the time. They didn’t have any leagues at the time in our town or anything like that in Western New York so I was able to start in high school and I just fell in love with it from the start,” Buccieri said.
Before going on to play Division I lacrosse at Niagara University, Buccieri wasn’t sure if college was the right fit for her. It was her coach, Kathy Majewski, who ultimately influenced her decision to pursue her degree in education with the intention of returning to Lancaster to take over the girls varsity lacrosse program.
Buccieri remembers Majewski telling her that she was going to go on to play collegiate lacrosse and then come back to coach the team, but she never imagined it would actually happen.
In 2004, Buccieri was hired as a special education teacher at Lancaster High School and became the girls varsity lacrosse coach in 2005, crediting much of her success to Majewski.
“She really encouraged me to not only start playing lacrosse, but also go on to have the opportunity to play in college, and then after that, be able to come back here and be a teacher, be a coach, and take over the program that I respected and loved so much,” Buccieri said.
“I’m very thankful that she pushed me in that direction and gave me those opportunities.”
In her 19 seasons, Buccieri has coached 24 First Team All-Western New York players, including 12 All-Americans. She has had 87 student-athletes go on to play college lacrosse and has had a lasting impact on each player she’s encountered.
One of Buccieri’s former players, Riley Lucarelli, went on to be a three-time team captain at Canisius College and was inspired by Buccieri to become a physical education teacher as well as the director of women’s lacrosse operations at Canisius.
“Coach Buccieri always believed in me and encouraged me to be the best athlete, lacrosse player, and person I could be,” Lucarelli said. “She encouraged me to play at the collegiate level and helped me explore my options. When I was in the recruiting process back in high school, we were writing and mailing out letters to colleges.
“She left such a lasting impression on her players. As players, we had such a tremendous amount of respect for her as a coach and person. She has been a great role model and person to reach out to, both as a player and now as a fellow coach.”
Riley’s sister, Cam Lucarelli, is a team captain in her senior season at Canisius. Cam further emphasized Buccieri’s lasting impression left on the girls lacrosse program.
“It is hard to be a part of that team and not want to continue playing lacrosse,” Cam said.
“Throughout my high school career, she made sure I was taken care of as a person, not only as a player, which is so important with athletes, especially moving on in college sports. She made sure to hold me accountable in all aspects of life, which now looking back on that time, I am very grateful to have a coach who cared like her.”
Buccieri’s love of the game and desire to grow girls lacrosse in the area influenced her decision to start the Lancaster Lady Monsters club lacrosse program in 2008. The program offers youth and offseason play for girls in Pre-K through 12th grade in Lancaster.
“At the time, it felt like something was missing. We needed a feeder program. We needed opportunities for girls to try lacrosse before they got to middle school or high school,” Buccieri said.
“We had a modified team at the time, but we needed something else. In our town, for girls, you could try soccer as a little kid and softball, but that was pretty much it. There wasn’t anything for girls lacrosse at the time.”
She and her husband, Jeff, felt like it was important for girls to have the opportunity to start playing the game earlier in life. The program has now grown to include travel opportunities for players looking to compete at a higher level.
“It has been great to be able to keep the kids together and do what I like to call ‘simplified travel;’ we don’t go super far,” Buccieri said. “We practice a little more than we would with regular Lady Monsters, but it’s more so an opportunity for kids to play against better competition while also having the opportunity to play other sports. We really encourage our kids to be multi-sport athletes.”
Along with running the Lady Monsters program, Buccieri also coaches alongside Jeff, who has been the assistant girls varsity lacrosse coach for the past 10 years. Her daughter Claire plays on varsity as an eighth grader while her sixth-grade daughter Brenna competes for the Lady Monsters travel team.
“I get choked up a little,” she shared. “We started coaching before we knew we would be able to have kids. We did this, not for them, but the community in Lancaster.
“To share this with our daughters is super special. I say it all the time, I think they love this program as much or more than we do. They love it and they love playing. They talk about being teachers and coaches someday.”
While Buccieri doesn’t know what the future has in store for her daughters, she will continue to do everything in her power to continue making an impact on girls lacrosse in the area and push the “Heart, Hustle, Family” slogan in the Lancaster School District.
“She is a pioneer for women’s lacrosse in the community,” Riley said. “She gave girls the opportunity to play lacrosse year-round, which impacted – and continues to impact – my life for the better. She continues to grow and enhance the girls lacrosse scene in Lancaster and all over Western New York. I can’t express enough how thankful I am for her and the Lancaster lacrosse program.”