June 26, 2014
NEW YORK – The BIG EAST Conference will welcome two new affiliate members prior to the start of the 2014-15 season as Florida and Vanderbilt will join the women’s lacrosse lineup. The BIG EAST will remain an eight-team league for women’s lacrosse as the Gators and Commodores join Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Marquette, Temple and Villanova.
“We’re excited to welcome Florida and Vanderbilt as affiliate members of the BIG EAST Conference,” said Chris Schneider, BIG EAST Associate Commissioner for Olympic Sports. “Both programs have proven histories of success and will reinforce the strength and high level of play BIG EAST women’s lacrosse is known for.”
Florida will enter its sixth season of women’s lacrosse in 2015 and has quickly become a national power in the sport. The Gators are coming off an 18-3 season in 2014, in which they claimed the American Lacrosse Conference regular season and tournament crowns. Florida made its fourth consecutive trip the NCAA Tournament, falling to eventual Final Four squad Northwestern in overtime in the Quarterfinals. The Gators advanced to the Final Four in 2012, and finished 2014 ranked sixth in the IWLCA Coaches Poll and No. 3 in the Brine Media Poll.
“We’re very excited for this next step for Florida lacrosse,” said Florida head coach Amanda O’Leary. “We enjoyed the high level of competition in the ALC, and are looking forward to the new challenges the BIG EAST will provide. We’ve built a legacy of success during our first five years and that’s something we look to continue while competing in the BIG EAST.”
Vanderbilt will enter its 18th season of women’s lacrosse in 2015 and is coming off a 5-12 campaign in 2014. The Commodores have advanced to six NCAA Tournaments, most recently in 2010, while earning a trip to the Final Four in 2004. Vanderbilt also joins the BIG EAST from the American Lacrosse Conference, which it had been a member of since the ALC’s inaugural season in 2002.
“We are excited to announce our affiliate membership with the BIG EAST,” said Vanderbilt head coach Cathy Swezey said. “It is a conference with great tradition and highly competitive lacrosse. We look forward to the new challenges we will face and to the new rivalries.”
For the third consecutive season, the BIG EAST had multiple teams earn bids to the NCAA Tournament in 2014, with Louisville claiming the conference’s automatic bid and Georgetown receiving an at-large invite. The BIG EAST first sponsored women’s lacrosse in the 2001 season with Conference tournaments beginning in 2007.