Women’s lacrosse to debut in spring 2016

Hamline University announces plan to debut the third NCAA Division III women’s lacrosse program in the state.

Paul Patane, Reporter

Hamline joins the growing ranks of the women’s lacrosse phenomenon as the university is going to have only the third Division III varsity program in the state. Augsburg College launched their team last year, and the University of Northwestern (MN) takes the field for the first time this spring.

Tonight, Wednesday, Dec. 10, the university will hold a reception to celebrate the program’s announcement in Anderson Center, Room 112. Those in attendance will have the chance to meet and connect with local coaches from various programs and levels and there will also be a brief program presentation.

Athletic Director Jason Verdugo and his department will use the coming days and weeks to interview and hire a coach and then implement a recruiting plan. Things are beginning to move quickly, considering the announcement was over a year in the making.

“We’ve actually been talking about this for about a year and a half. I’ve kind of chipped away, presented it to my boss, the Provost and the Board of Trustees,” Verdugo said.

Hamline's women's lacrosse team will claim Klas Field as their home stadium
Amber Osmonson
Hamline’s women’s lacrosse team will claim Klas Field as their home stadium

Part of the announcement is due to women’s lacrosse growth nationally and across the state. Due to high participation levels in high school, there’s a real growth and recruiting opportunity at the collegiate level.

“When we’re looking at statistics nationally, it’s the fastest growing sport in NCAA Division III,” Verdugo said.

Sports Information Director Dave Wright has noticed the growth more locally.

“It’s only the eighth year of high school women’s lacrosse in Minnesota and there are 74 girl’s lacrosse teams in Minnesota high schools,” Wright said.

The team may not have a coaching staff or players yet, but there’s a clear plan in place. To be in a NCAA sports conference, there needs to be six teams participating. Due to there only being three programs in the state as of spring 2016, Hamline will play independent of a conference. Outside of playing Augsburg and Northwestern (MN), they expect to fill the rest of their schedule playing teams from Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.

The athletic department already has playing surfaces figured out.

“At this point, they’ll play on Klas Field and the field would be taped,” Verdugo said. “If we want them to get on a softer field for practice in the spring, they can use Paterson Field.”

Wright explained how women’s lacrosse will co-exist with other spring sports.

“They’ll share practice time with track,” Wright said.

There’s a sharp contrast locally compared to what’s seen on the east coast. Universities across the east have established lacrosse programs for both men and women at all levels. In some areas, the “oldest” sport in the nation, which was created by Native Americans, is as popular as baseball. It hasn’t been until recent years the numbers have begun to catch up in the Midwest.

Due to the recent growth and lack of collegiate programs in place regionally, there is a healthy pool of coaches to look at to fill coaching positions.

“So many people are very excited. I really think we’ll have a good opportunity to acquire a talented coach,” Verdugo said.

Part of what’s made the women’s lacrosse plan go from a dream to becoming reality is the established club program Hamline already has.

“We’ve had club women’s lacrosse. They’re very organized and we wouldn’t have seriously considered this without them,” Verdugo said.

Going forward, how things work between the varsity team and the club team remains unclear but Verdugo thinks there is room for both teams on campus.

“Our hope is that club lacrosse and the varsity team will co-exist,” Verdugo said.

Junior Megan Gjere, a member of the women’s hockey team, played club lacrosse last year and may come back for another season depending on how she bounces back from a serious injury. She was excited to hear the big announcement.

“It was good to hear. Augsburg got a team last year and our team was excited and hopeful we’d become an NCAA sport soon,” Gjere said.

Gjere thinks the announcement will help boost women’s sports as many student athletes play more than one sport.

“I knew I wanted to play lacrosse. It was similar to hockey and I knew I wanted to try it,” Gjere said.

Wright shares Gjere’s opinion and thinks the sport can appeal to many female student athletes.

“Because it’s a spring sport, I would not be surprised to see a soccer player playing lacrosse in the spring,” Wright said.

There’s likely to be a good amount of traveling due to the lack of local teams, but Gjere does not see that as a deterrent.

“Part of what’s exciting is traveling to other places. You’ll get to see different states and places with your team,” Gjere said.

Hamline’s women’s lacrosse team will be the 11th women’s varsity sport played at the university for the 2015-2016 school year.