MACON, Ga. – The Atlantic Sun Conference will debut women’s lacrosse as an NCAA Division I championship sport in the spring of 2013, adding the 10th women’s sport and 18th overall to its program.
“Expanding the competitive opportunities for our student-athletes is also a pleasure to announce,” said A-Sun Commissioner Ted Gumbart. “The addition of women’s lacrosse to the A-Sun will provide championship opportunities for the growing list of A-Sun schools that will be competing in this popular sport, and we are very excited about adding Detroit, Howard and Longwood as affiliate members. They will be excellent competitors in the A-Sun and we look forward to a very successful future in women’s lacrosse.”
A-Sun member Jacksonville currently fields a women’s lacrosse team, and the Dolphins will be joined by sister schools Kennesaw State University, Mercer University, and Stetson University. The A-Sun also accepted Longwood University, the University of Detroit Mercy, and Howard University as affiliate members in women’s lacrosse, giving the A-Sun high quality competition in its first season and the minimum participation requirements (six teams) for access to an NCAA automatic bid to postseason play.
Jacksonville, Longwood, Detroit and Howard already share a familiarity, as they currently compete together in the National Lacrosse Conference (NLC). Jacksonville fielded its first team in 2010, finishing 8-11 in the NLC. In 2011 the Dolphins posted a 14-5 record overall and finished as the NLC regular season champions. The Dolphins were also tied for second nationally with Longwood with a single-game high of 24 goals. This spring, JU returns every top-10 scorer from a unit that scored 308 times in 19 games last year for a 16.21 goals-per-game average, tops in Division I. The Dolphins will also face Team England in an exhibition match this year and are led by third-year coach Mindy McCord.
Longwood brings its own tradition to the A-Sun, competing in its 40th season of women’s lacrosse in 2011 with a 269-216-4 (.548) all-time mark. The Lancers have fielded 22 All-Americans and were ranked No. 1 nationally in 2002 while a member of NCAA Division II. Also during that period Longwood reached the Division II Final Four in 2002 and 2003. The Lancers finished the 2011 season 10-8 after claiming consecutive NLC tournament crowns in 2009 and 2010. Longwood also finished the 2010 season in the Top-10 nationally in two team categories, draw controls (6th) and scoring offense (7th). Former Lancer and two-time All-American Julie Dayton (1981) is a 2011 finalist for induction into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
“I am delighted that the Atlantic Sun Conference has invited Longwood Women’s Lacrosse to participate as an affiliate member,” said Longwood University Director of Athletics Troy Austin. “I would also like to commend the leadership within the Atlantic Sun for quickly moving forward on the opportunity to sponsor women’s lacrosse as a championship sport. This addition demonstrates the A‑Sun’s commitment to enhancing the student-athlete experience for all of their member institutions.”
The Titans of Detroit Mercy fielded their first team in 2009, and have posted a 15-37 record in the program’s first three years. Last season several individual Titans left their marks on the statistical rankings, including 12 players ranked in the Top 20 of eight different categories. Detroit is one of the youngest lacrosse programs in the country, led by first-year head coach Laura Maness. Off the field, the Titans earned IWLCA recognition as they received Academic Squad honors for posting a team GPA or 3.0 or better.
The Howard Lady Bison posted a 4-13 mark in 2011 and hold an all-time record of 21-93. Howard debuted its program in 2003, and was a founding member of the NLC. The Bison’s star player in 2010, Desiree Cox, earned NLC Attacker of the Year accolades and ranked highly in several NCAA offensive statistical categories after scoring 68 goals and 77 points. Head Coach Sarah Schermerhorn is in her second year with the Lady Bison.The Atlantic Sun Conference is an NCAA Division I league with 10 member institutions committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun meets the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement with a true balance between student and athlete. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.