FULTON, Mo. – President Benjamin Akande, Director of Athletics Tracey Braden, and Westminster lacrosse head coaches Ben Murphy and Kristi Crowley have announced that the men's and women's lacrosse teams will become an NCAA Division III sponsored sport starting in the 2017-18 season.
"I'm excited because we knew that being a club team would be transitional and we've worked to fast-track this process," said Pres. Akande. "We think that's where we need to be and we think that's where we can succeed where the competition level is high.
"Ben and Kristi have successfully recruited internally a team that will formulate the future of Westminster lacrosse," continued Pres. Akande.
Lacrosse was first announced at Westminster Mar. 22, 2016. A search process was initiated and Murphy and Crowley were hired Apr. 28.
"I am really excited for our men's and women's lacrosse teams," said Braden. "Coach Murphy and Coach Crowley's commitment to building the foundation of excellence for our lacrosse programs is evident in their push to become a varsity NCAA Division III sport at Westminster."
The women's lacrosse team marks the only NCAA Division III program in the state of Missouri. Westminster becomes the only NCAA Division III brother-sister program, with men's and women's lacrosse at the same institution, in the state.
"I want to thank President Akande, Gary Stocker, former athletic director Matt Mitchell and the search committee for giving me the opportunity of being the first ever head women's lacrosse coach at Westminster," said Crowley. "I would also like to thank current athletic director, Tracey Braden who has continuously shown support and given helpful advice with our ever-growing program."
"Adding lacrosse is the next step for many athletic departments around the country," added Murphy. "Lacrosse is still growing all over the country and the world. It is an exciting game and will continue to gain popularity."
After less than six months, Murphy and Crowley have amassed full teams and a schedule for the spring.
Murphy has announced 23 players on the men's lacrosse roster and Crowley has 22. Both expect to increase their rosters by next season.
Both Murphy and Crowley have been increasing their recruiting efforts in preparation for next year, as both have exceeded 50 student-athletes highly interested in their respective programs.
"Recruits will have a positive reaction to this news," said Murphy. "Kids dream about playing NCAA varsity lacrosse and now we can offer that!"
The first-ever Westminster lacrosse game will be played at home Feb. 18. The day features a double-header against Benedictine with the women's match starting at 1 p.m. and the men's match immediately following.
"I am ecstatic and honored to not only start the women's lacrosse club program at Westminster, but to also help lead the program into being the first Division III women's lacrosse team in the state of Missouri," said Crowley.
"Transitioning to an NCAA Division III varsity sport is a dream coming to reality," said Murphy. "I wanted to coach college lacrosse six years ago and to see where we came from to this moment is very special."