From February 2019
By Nicole Watkins
The opportunity to be the first at anything is rare. That’s why being part of the inaugural varsity women’s lacrosse team at the University of Chicago—set to debut in NCAA Division III competition on Feb. 23 at Stagg Field—is so special for both players and coaches.
“I think it definitely feels like we’re making history because we sort of get to define what that means for us, and set a precedent,” said third-year Maya De Jonge, a team captain. “Whether that’s traditions that we have, or attitudes we have towards the program, I think that’s really cool.”
First-year head coach Kate Robinson is no stranger to starting a program—she did the same at her previous stop in Whitman College in Washington. She coached the former Maroons club team last fall and brought in 16 first-years to join eight upperclassmen to the 2019 squad.
“It’s somewhat surreal to think about,” Robinson said. “Not many coaches get to do something like this in their careers. I feel very fortunate to get to work with such a storied athletic department and incredible student-athletes.”
Typically an East Coast sport, lacrosse—a combination of basketball, soccer and hockey—is growing in popularity. Previously a longtime club team, UChicago is set to compete this season as affiliate members of the Midwest-based College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, which now sponsors eight lacrosse teams.
“I think it’s important to have lacrosse at a place like the University of Chicago because they are a perfect fit for each other,” Robinson said. “Lacrosse players are creative, able to make quick decisions on the fly, motivated and hard-working—much like a typical student who attends UChicago.”
Despite being a first-year team, UChicago was picked to finish third by coaches in the league’s preseason poll. A new program doesn’t mean all newcomers, however; the Maroons have a group of veteran players that used to play on the club team, including Kate Monson, Honor Crandell and captains De Jonge, Jane Jozefowicz and Veronica Myers. “Any future success we will have will stem from the leadership we had this first season, and what they have done for the culture of the program,” Robinson said.
The team will play its first three games at home, beginning with its season opener at 1 p.m. Feb. 23 against DePauw University of Indiana. Snow or shine, players are eager to get started.
“It’s crazy to think that we just started and we have all this time, and where we’ll be by the end of the season,” said first-year Lally Johnson. “I know it’s going to be exponential growth, and I cannot even imagine where we’re going to be. I can’t wait to see it.”