November 15, 2011

Women's Lacrosse to be Elevated to Varsity Status

BOSTON, Mass. – Director of Athletics Angel Ayres today announced the elevation of women's lacrosse from club status to Wentworth's 16th varsity program, effective with the 2012-2013 year. In addition, Jess Blair has been named as the program's head coach while Julie Lancaster will serve as an assistant coach.

"We are very excited about this announcement regarding our women's lacrosse program," said Ayres. "This will give our current women at Wentworth a tremendous opportunity to be involved in a great experience and will also provide another avenue for recruiting great women to Wentworth. Women's lacrosse has been a rapidly growing collegiate sport and Wentworth is proud to be a part of this growing trend. I look forward to supporting this program and helping them to develop into a competitive program in the Commonwealth Coast Conference."

"This is not only an exciting occasion for Wentworth Athletics but an unforgettable moment for each student athlete who is helping to build this program," said Blair. "I am so honored to have been chosen to take on this unique opportunity and very much look forward to making history here at Wentworth."

Wentworth has sponsored women's lacrosse as a club sport since the spring of 2010 and the squad competed in scrimmages during the 2010-2011 academic year. With a dedicated group of student-athletes, the Leopards have been practicing during the fall and will compete in six games and scrimmages this spring in anticipation of the move to varsity status.

The Leopards will compete in the Commonwealth Coast Conference, giving the league nine of its 10 member institutions (Curry, Endicott, Gordon, University of New England, Nichols, Roger Williams, Salve Regina, Wentworth, and Western New England) that sponsor the sport. Wentworth anticipates playing a full conference schedule during the 2013 campaign.

"We are looking forward to making a name for ourselves within the conference and one day becoming a contender against the top-tier teams," added Blair. "We have a group of phenomenal athletes who want nothing more than to succeed in the conference. Winning won't always define our success; it will be about how we got there and never giving up."

Blair has coached the Leopard club team since the fall of 2010 after spending two seasons as the Head Women's Lacrosse Coach at Pine Manor College, a program that was entering its fourth season of play when she took over. While with the Gators her team went from zero wins the year before she arrived to four wins during her inaugural season. The squad also won its first-ever conference game during the 2010 season.

A native of Middlebury, Vt., Blair is a 2005 graduate of Endicott College where she served as captain during her junior and senior campaigns. Over the course of her final three seasons she played in 48 games, scoring 56 goals and adding 10 assists for 66 points as well as picking up 90 ground balls. As a sophomore she set a then-school record with 30 draw controls. During her senior season the Gulls reached the finals of the CCC Tournament for the first time in program history and earned the program's second ECAC Tournament appearance.

"Jess Blair has been a tremendous addition to our athletic staff," said Ayres. "She has been working diligently to start this program and has built a solid foundation. She has the work ethic and passion for the sport and Wentworth to build this program and succeed. I truly look forward to working with Jess on her journey."

Lancaster is no stranger to helping build women's lacrosse programs as she was a member of the first four (2004-2007) varsity teams at Southern New Hampshire University. She presently ranks sixth in program history with 53 caused turnovers and ninth with 92 ground balls. A native of Waterville, Maine, Lancaster helped the Penmen transition from an 0-10 record during her freshman season to back-to-back appearances in the Northeast-10 semifinals in 2006 and 2007. The 2007 squad finished with a 10-4 record. She graduated from Southern New Hampshire in 2007.

"As a collegiate student-athlete I was lucky enough to make history at Southern New Hampshire University as part of its first varsity women's lacrosse team," said Lancaster. "I am now looking forward to becoming a part of Wentworth's history in coaching the very first varsity women's lacrosse team. Starting a new athletic program is not an easy task. It takes dedicated coaches and student-athletes along with support from the entire school community. We are thankful that the Wentworth community has been so supportive in developing of our new program."

"It takes a lot of heart, determination, and devotion to do what we're doing and that's what I hope this program will focus on," said Blair. "Our future is about learning how to communicate, teamwork, commitment, and dedication. I would like to see the women's lacrosse program center itself on these types of values; values that help us become better student-athletes, teammates, and better individuals. So far, we're on the right track."