Feb. 25, 1997
Women's Lacrosse Preps for Inaugural SeasonBy Bernadette Cafarelli
Women's lacrosse, the newest varsity sport at Notre Dame, plays its first game on March 12 against Fairfield in Williamsburgh, Va. Its been nine years since women's soccer and softball were added to the list of Irish varsity sports. Both have been highly successful and are now perennial participants in NCAA post season competition.
While the tradition has yet to be established, first-year head coach Tracy Coyne, is excited about the prospects for she and the 24-members of Notre Dame's 25th sport to gain varsity status at Notre Dame.
"It's exciting to be part of a new program, to represent Notre Dame and to have the opportunity to go out and establish a winning tradition, says Coyne. "I'm anxious to get started. I value the opportunity to start the program on my own. I want to create something special, which resembles everything this University is about. People don't always understand what Notre Dame has to offer, with its combination of academics and athletics which is unparallelled. The success of the other athletic teams here inspires me to want to match it."
And perhaps there is no greater model to emulate than women's soccer, which won the school's first-ever national championship in that sport less than 10 years after beginning varsity competition.
Coyne arrived at Notre Dame this past August after spending seven years as the women's lacrosse and field hockey coach at Roanoke. While at Roanoke, she was the 1990 Division III coach of the year, led the school to its first-ever national ranking and five NCAA Division III tournament appearances.
Widely respected throughout the lacrosse community, Coyne has assembled an excellent staff consisting of former University of Maryland All-American Liz Downing, who was recently selected to the World Cup team, and Kirsten Wagner, a four-year standout at Roanoke.
This season's first-year squad is comprised mainly of players who were members of Notre Dame's women's club lacrosse team. Coyne has assembled a competitive 10-game schedule for this group that includes the likes of Vanderbilt, Ohio State, Davidson and Stanford.
"We have a schedule that includes all Division I teams," says Coyne 'It's a very competitive schedule that gives us the opportunity to play some tough games against established programs as well as play teams who are in a similar position as we are and just starting up. Our schedule this year will give us an indication of where we are and what we need to work on to get better."
Since the fall, Coyne and her coaching staff have been developing the fundamentals - stickwork, passing and catching - and have emphasized basics to their team.
"We've worked hard on the fundamentals," says Coyne. "I want this team to go out and compete each and every time we take the field. We won't be able to judge the progress we've made at the end of the season by looking at our record. Our goal is to go out and do the best we can and strive to get better. I want each and every player to feel satisfied with her performance when she gets off the field."
What has impressed Coyne most about her team is the willingness each player has to learn and each individual's work ethic. It's an extremely coachable and competitive group.
It is Coyne's hope to have the Irish ranked nationally and in the NCAA tournament within the next five seasons. While those goals may seem somewhat far off now, success for this program may be just around the corner. With Coyne's competitiveness and enthusiasm for the program, there is no doubt that soon women's lacrosse at Notre Dame will establish a winning tradition of its own.