Like a yo-yo, Rachel Marchini was stuck in a pendulum her freshman year, swinging back and forth, spinning with no real purpose or path forward. She was miserable.
Marchini, now a starting center-back for the UConn women’s soccer team, finished out her freshman year with a sit-down meeting with head coach Margaret Rodriguez. The result: She was nearly cut.
Upon being pulled into Rodriguez’s office, the coach told her she was struggling to find a role for the redshirted freshman, essentially telling the young defender it’s now-or-never, perform or get lost.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” Marchini said. “It wasn’t like I wasn’t physically capable of playing at this level, but my confidence and my mental state coming in freshman year, I was nervous that I couldn’t play. I was in my own head.”
Unlike the “rock the baby” yo-yo trick Marchini has now mastered, she was able to break that cycle and carve out a role for herself. This enlightening experience changed her for the better; it pushed her to find joy on the field and to work harder in all aspects of life.
“If you told me three years ago that Rachel would be the person she is today, I wouldn’t even begin to believe you,” Zoë Steck, Marchini’s roommate last year and fellow UConn women’s soccer player, said. “She’s transformed completely, on and off the field, and seeing it firsthand has been super cool.”
After her first campaign, she went back home to Waterford, Connecticut and spent winter break trying to “find the fun” in her life again. Playing pickup with friends from home reignited the fire we see on the field today. It started the process, and from there she jumped headfirst off the high dive into the work.
The first task: Get fit.
“I couldn’t play or do half the things I wanted to do because I wasn’t fit enough to do it,” Marchini said.
She spent the summer before her second season training with the cross-country coach at her high school three times a week, according to The Day.
Next, she had to change her attitude and be comfortable being herself, allowing her illustrious personality to shine through. An admittedly tightly wound individual at times, she forced herself to relax and let the pressure she put on herself melt away.
This not only helped her on the field, but in the classroom as well. As a chemical engineering major, school is never easy, but she has used her new mindset to excel in all facets of life.
Marchini also has quite a few people in her corner, keeping her on the right path and propping her up when she needs it. Her family, specifically, is all around her. Both of her siblings are Huskies as well: her twin brother Nic is an undergraduate, and her sister Hanna graduated last year. Marchini described her mom, Jill, as her best friend in the world, and Jill goes to all her games and cheers her on whether she’s playing or not.
“If I want to go down the road to Hilltop, my brother’s in Hilltop, we’ll have dinner,” Marchini said. “It’s just nice to have that family at home. It’s like an at-home experience.”
She’s not just taking help from others; she also sends it back out into the universe at will. Her teammates noted her energy and willingness to be vocal around the team.
“You’ll always see her jumping around, dancing,” Melina Couzis, UConn midfielder, said. “In the locker room she’s always the one being energized, pumping people up.”
Steck was quick to hype up her old roommate, describing her as “one of the most hardworking people I’ve ever met” and saying her attitude is “infectious to those around her.”
All those factors have come together to make Marchini what she is now, a powerhouse in the back of UConn’s defense.
“She’s able to defend for us when we need her to,” said Rodriguez following a loss to Harvard at Dillion stadium, according to The Day. “She’s been our most composed back out there for us.”
Following her redshirt season, Marchini saw action in just seven games as a redshirt freshman. However, this season she has put on a show, helping UConn cut their goals allowed by nearly half, down from 44 last season to just 23 this year, with a game left to play.
Marchini also got her head on a game-winner in the 78th minute against Colgate early in the season, scoring her first goal as a Husky.
The statistic that shows her transformation most aptly is her 1,476 minutes played this season, which is more than everyone else on the team except goalkeeper Randi Palacios. She gets playing time for a reason. As Couzis put it, “she’s definitely a leader out there.”
After spending years putting in the work and changing her mindset, Marchini has done so much more for the UConn women’s soccer team than yo-yo tricks.
Mike Mavredakis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @mmavredakis.