November 28, 2012

Louisville Coach Young Giddy for Cards to Join ACC

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Louisville will leave the Big East to join the ACC for the spring of 2015. "It's a conference that kids want to play in," Cardinals coach Kellie Young said Wednesday.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Louisville coach Kellie Young is giddy over the prospect of competing in the ACC. Louisville announced Wednesday that it would leave the Big East after seven years of membership to join the ACC in the 2014-2015 school year. With the addition of the Cardinals, there will be eight women's lacrosse teams in the ACC by the 2015 season.

"I love the Big East. We have such great relationships and great rivalries. We're leaving the relationships that we've had, but my gosh, to be in the ACC, and to look at Syracuse and Notre Dame and Louisville coming in — it's a super-conference," Young said.

Young said the move was bittersweet since she has a long personal history in the Big East (she was an assistant at Georgetown for four years, including the Hoyas' back-to-back championship game appearances in 2001 and 2002). She also has strong relationships with many of the league's coaches. But the prestige of the ACC, traditionally one of the nation's strongest lacrosse conferences, will allow her to compete for better recruits.

"It's a conference that kids want to play in," she said. "They want to play in it because of the history, the rivalries and the name. I can say 'Come be the player at Louisville who can get us to fight for that first ACC championship in a new era.'"

Young also hopes that the ACC's strength in men's and women's basketball will draw more casual fans to lacrosse games in hoops-crazy Kentucky.

"Loyola's a great program, but no one in Louisville knows who that is. For them to hear Duke lacrosse is coming? They'll show up for that," Young said. "I'm excited about how that will affect our lacrosse community and continue to grow lacrosse in the Midwest."

Playing against the pumped-up ACC will be a challenge for the Cardinals. Since the program's inception in 2008, Louisville has a 2-8 record against teams that will be in the 2015 edition of the ACC. (Both wins were versus Virginia Tech.) In the same period, they went 11-10 (52.4 percent) versus teams remaining in the Big East (Georgetown, UConn, Cincinnati, and Villanova). Temple will join the Big East as a full member after this season.

The 2012 season was a particularly challenging one for the Cardinals. They went 3-12, and the roster shrank to just 19 players after six players left the team due to off-field issues. Star attacker Katie Oliverio missed the season with a torn ACL to boot. But Young said the program has experienced a watershed moment and is eager to move forward. The 2013 roster has 28 players on it, including a healthy Oliverio.

As the Conferences Turn...

Related LaxMagazine.com coverage on the impact of conference realignment on lacrosse:

* Realignment Watch: Louisville to ACC
* Tillman on Maryland's Future: Wait and See
* Reese Hopes for Big Ten Women's League

* Coaches React to Potential Big Ten Lacrosse

* Maryland, Rutgers Moves Will Shake Up Lax

* Notre Dame to Join ACC

"As the head coach of a [start-up] program, I've pulled my hair out trying to establish a culture who mirrors who I am, and I've done that," said Young, who has been the program's only coach since its inaugural varsity season in 2008. "We're set up for the best year this program has ever had. Katie is back and playing out of her head. Those injuries can either shatter or develop young women, and she's a young woman who's coming into our own."

As for the future of men's lacrosse at Louisville, Young said she has not heard anything from the athletic department about the prospect of adding any sport in the near future. Currently, the ACC will have five men's lacrosse teams in 2015, leaving them one shy of the six required for an automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament.

"The lacrosse community is so tight. Women want to play at a school with a men's program alongside it," she said. "I'll say this — we're happy to be the lacrosse team here. We'd be happier to be one of the lacrosse teams here."

Tulane Not Looking to Add

In another recent conference realignment announcement, New Orleans-based Tulane University will join the Big East in all sports for 2014-15, but an athletics department official told Lacrosse Magazine on Wednesday that the Green Wave is not planning on adding men's or women's varsity lacrosse — or any sport — anytime soon.

"We're a special case," said Roger Dunaway, assistant athletic director for athletics communication at Tulane. "After Hurricane Katrina, we shut down our university for a semester. In the aftermath of that, we had to drop eight sports. The NCAA gave us a waiver of five years to bring our sports back. In 2006, that was when first sports that came back were there, and in 2008 and 2009 there were more. So really, last year was the first year we were back to 16 sports.

"So at this point, I'm not ruling out the idea that we'd never bring in another sport, but we just got back to being whole. We're not looking to add any sports at the moment," Dunaway said. "Right now we're in good shape with six men's teams and 10 women's teams."


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