Catholic 7: Lacrosse

After years of working to attain varsity men’s and women’s lacrosse programs, Marquette announced it is leaving the Big East to form a new conference with the rest of the Catholic 7. That decision could mean that the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams will be out of the Big East before ever playing their first conference games.

Both teams will compete as independents during their inaugural seasons this spring, but they are slated to play in the Big East in 2014. However, Vice President and Director of Athletics Larry Williams said in an interview earlier this month that he wants to strike a deal with the Big East that would allow Marquette to leave the conference by July of this year. Such a deal would take the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams out of the Big East before they become official members.

Despite the uncertainty, both teams are still preparing for their rapidly approaching seasons. Women’s coach Meredith Black has already named sophomore Jenaye Coleman, graduate student Lisa Beltramello and sophomore Emily Donovan as the program’s first ever team captains. Coleman, Beltramello and Donovan will lead their team into its first game on Friday, Feb. 15 at Winthrop.

The men’s team will see its first action this weekend in scrimmages against Michigan and Denison. Once the real season is underway, the Golden Eagles will play only two of their 13 games at home and end their daunting schedule by taking on perennial power Duke at Valley Fields.

Since there are only 63 schools in the country with varsity men’s lacrosse programs and 100 with varsity women’s lacrosse (compared to 347 with men’s basketball and 345 with women’s), lacrosse conferences differ from many other sports conferences. Not including Marquette, the Big East has seven men’s lacrosse teams, four of which are Catholic 7 schools, and nine women’s lacrosse members, only two of which are among the Catholic 7.

Once the Catholic 7 institutions break away and Marquette’s lacrosse teams are included, the new conference will have five men’s teams and three women’s teams. Since NCAA rules require at least six members for a conference to be considered for automatic qualification to the national tournament, the Catholic 7 will likely look to pick up at least one more men’s lacrosse team and three women’s lacrosse teams to fill out the conference.

Virginia Commonwealth, Creighton, Dayton, Xavier, Butler, Gonzaga and Saint Louis have all been discussed as good fits for the Catholic 7, but none of those schools play men’s or women’s lacrosse. Instead, Detroit, Saint Joseph’s and Hofstra could work as either full members or lacrosse-only additions, since all three schools fit geographically, play Division I basketball and do not have football programs. Also, men’s lacrosse coach Joe Amplo got his start at Hofstra, so yearly games against the Pride would surely yield a few headlines.

If Hofstra, Saint Joseph’s and Detroit were added, both the men’s and women’s lacrosse conferences would be eligible for automatic qualification to the NCAA Championship after a two-year waiting period. The eight teams in the men’s lacrosse conference, when listed by their performance in 2012, would be Villanova, St. John’s, Georgetown, Hofstra, Saint Joseph’s, Detroit, Providence and Marquette. The six women’s lacrosse teams listed in the same way are as follows: Georgetown, Detroit, Hofstra, Saint Joseph’s, Villanova and Marquette.