Villucci Returns to Rhode Island as Women's Tennis Head Coach
KINGSTON, R.I. - A familiar face is returning to Rhode Island as the women's tennis head coach, as Val Villucci was named to the position by Director of Athletics Thorr Bjorn.
Villucci is back at Rhode Island for her third stint as the head coach of the women's team. She has been the head coach for the men's and women's program's at Bethune-Cookman in Dayton Beach, Fla. since 2016.
"We are thrilled to have Val back coaching our women's tennis team," Bjorn said. "She did an incredible job during her previous time as our head coach ensuring our students have an incredible experience while also working hard to elevate the stature of a program. I'm excited to work with her again as we work toward building an Atlantic 10 championship-caliber team."
Villucci first was Rhode Island's head coach from 1993 through 2004 before coaching the men's team at URI from 2004-08. She returned to the women's program from 2009-15. While at URI, she secured private donations for the construction of URI's $500,000 tennis complex and $350,000 pavilion.
"Returning to Rhode Island is quite meaningful to me," Villucci said. "It's been said that life takes you to unexpected places, but love brings you home. My journey has come full circle and it's wonderful to be back. URI is home."
While at Bethune-Cookman, Villucci led the men's program to its first HBCU Men's National Championship in 2018 while helping both the men's and women's teams qualify for the MEAC Championship. On the women's side, she coached freshman Michelle Ncube to the 2019 MEAC Rookie of the Year. The Harare, Zimbabwe native was 10-3 in singles play and was unbeaten in league action, earning first-team all-conference recognition. It was the second straight MEAC Rookie of the Year for Villucci, who also had Rehaana Butt earn the award in 2018.
Villucci was the first full-time coach in program history at Rhode Island, and she is the primary person responsible for building the tennis program at Rhode Island in her 21 seasons as head coach. She had a run of nine consecutive seasons with at least one all-conference selection in her previous stint with the program. Off the court, the Rams earned the NCAA's Public Recognition Award for its Academic Progress Rate in back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014.
She inherits a team that returns seven players with starting experience, including seniors Rachel Smilansky and Mihaela Codreanu and sophomore Erin Chratian, all of whom have Atlantic 10 All-Conference accolades to their credit.