Tuesday, June 26, 2012
MACON, Ga. – The Atlantic Sun Conference announced today that the inaugural women’s lacrosse teams from Elon University and Furman University will debut their programs as affiliate members of the conference as early as 2014.
“We get fired up every time we can announce expanded competitive opportunities for student-athletes,” said A-Sun Commissioner Ted Gumbart. “Women’s lacrosse continues to grow in the south, and we are pleased and proud to welcome two outstanding university programs to A-Sun Lacrosse. Elon University and Furman University will both be outstanding affiliate members and we look forward to the contributions their women’s lacrosse teams will bring to the conference.”
A-Sun member Jacksonville University currently fields a women’s lacrosse team, and the Dolphins will be joined by sister schools Kennesaw State University and Stetson University and other new affiliate members University of Detroit Mercy, and Howard University in 2013. A-Sun member Mercer University begins in 2014. The A-Sun joins the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big South Conference as sponsors of the sport in the Southeast.
Josh Hexter will serve as the head coach for the Elon women’s lacrosse team that will begin play in 2014. Hexter has been the associate head coach of the Duke University women’s lacrosse program since 2010 and has been on staff for the Blue Devils since the 2005 season. During his time at Duke, the program averaged nearly 16 wins a season and won three Atlantic Coast Conference regular season championships and an ACC Tournament title. He was also the head women’s lacrosse coach at Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater, Mass., from 1998-2004.
“We are excited to become an affiliate of the Atlantic Sun in women’s lacrosse, joining schools that maintain high standards in academic and athletic achievement,” Hexter said. “This is a great step forward for Elon’s program and will help us be successful for years to come.”
This marks the first time since the 2000-01 school year that a sport has been added at Elon, when the university began a women’s indoor and outdoor track and field program. The sport brings the total to 10 women’s sports and 17 overall at Elon.
“We are appreciative of the members of the Atlantic Sun Conference for their interest in having Elon University join them for women’s lacrosse competition,” said Elon Director of Athletics Dave Blank. “As we begin our new program, an affiliation with Atlantic Sun members will give us immediate credibility as a Division I lacrosse program. We are anxious to get started.”
The last time Furman added a new sport was during the 1994-95 school year, when it began its women’s soccer program. The addition gives Furman a total of 10 women’s sports and 20 overall.
“We are very excited to call the Atlantic Sun home for our women's lacrosse program,” said Dr. Gary Clark, Furman Director of Athletics. “The Atlantic Sun provides us with the opportunity to compete at high level with schools that share a similar approach to athletics and academics.”
Furman women’s lacrosse will be led by first-year head coach Rachel Shuck Whitten. Whitten arrives at Furman after six years at the University of Denver, where she previously served as an assistant and associate head coach.
"I am very excited for Furman to join the Atlantic Sun Conference. The addition of these four teams will add some great competition to the league, which will have a strong impact on Division I lacrosse,” said Whitten. “Fans can really see the growth of the sport across the country, especially with this conference's expansion."
During her tenure at Denver, the Pioneers amassed a 71-36 (.664) record, won three Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) regular season championships, and ranked among the nation's top 20 teams three times.
Kennesaw State makes its debut under new head coach Kristina Llanes and the Hatters under their new head coach, Nicole Moore. Llanes last coached collegiately in the spring of 2011 as the head coach at Presbyterian College. In her three years at the helm, the Blue Hose were 12-37, including the best season in school history in 2011 with a mark of 5-13. Prior to Presbyterian, Llanes was the head coach at SUNY Maritime for three seasons. She began her collegiate coaching career in 2005 as an assistant at Averett University in Virginia.
Moore comes to Stetson from the University of Vermont, where she spent the last two seasons. Prior to her time with the Catamounts, Moore spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Temple University (2007-10). She worked primarily with the Owl defenders and helped guide Temple to a spot in the Atlantic-10 Tournament over the last three years. The Owls won the A-10 Championship in 2008 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament that season.
Jacksonville, Detroit and Howard already share a familiarity, as they currently compete together in the National Lacrosse Conference (NLC). Jacksonville (15-4, 6-1 NLC) defeated defending NLC champion High Point for the 2012 NLC title, and has amassed a 37-20 record since fielding its first team in 2010. Head Coach Mindy McCord is in her third year with JU.
The Titans of Detroit Mercy (8-9, 5-2 NLC) fielded their first team in 2009, and have posted a 23-46 record in the program’s first four years. The Titans finished third in the regular season this year, building off the strength of last season in which several individuals ranked 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 second-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 0-14 mark in 2011 and hold an all-time record of 21-107. Howard debuted its program in 2003, and was a founding member of the NLC. Head Coach Sarah Schermerhorn is in her second year with the Lady Bison.
Along with being the fastest growing sport in the NCAA, women’s lacrosse boasts the top graduation success rates (GSR) among all NCAA Division 1 sports. According to the latest NCAA figures released last May, women’s lacrosse posted a four-year class average GSR of 94 percent, which topped all 18 NCAA-sanctioned sports.
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: East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, Northern Kentucky University, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.