SAINT LEO, Fla. – Saint Leo Director of Athletics Francis X. Reidy has announced that women’s lacrosse will make its debut as the 17th NCAA-sponsored sport at Saint Leo University. In addition, Reidy also announced that Lesley Graham has been selected as the program’s first head coach as she will begin building for its first competitive season in 2011-12.
Coming to Saint Leo from her previous position at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, Pa., Graham proved to be a great fit into Saint Leo, with prior experience in both Division II and at other Catholic universities, including Canisus College in New York.
“Lesley’s experience at two Catholic institutions allowed her to easily grasp our ideals and philosophies, and she was able to articulate a vision for our newest program which aligned with our values,” said Reidy.
Making the transition to Florida and tasked with building a program from the ground floor, Graham is no stranger to developing young teams as she took an inexperienced Griffin’s squad to six wins and two all-conference selections in her only year at the helm of Chestnut Hill.
“I am extremely excited for the opportunity to start the women's lacrosse program at Saint Leo,” said an excited Graham. “I am looking forward to building upon the great foundation of athletic excellence already established. The sport of women's lacrosse is growing tremendously, especially in the south, and it is an honor to be able to spread my passion for the sport and knowledge of the game within the Saint Leo community.”
Marking the first new program at Saint Leo since the addition of men’s lacrosse in 2006, women’s lacrosse becomes the 17th NCAA-sponsored sport at Saint Leo University and the ninth sport added to the Lions’ stable in the new millennium. It also marks the ninth women’s program at the institution.
In an effort to build the program on the right foot, Reidy conducted an extensive nationwide search for a candidate he felt would fit within the Core Values the university holds, all while establishing a new, emerging sport into the Saint Leo stable. In Graham, he felt as if she was the perfect fit.
“Coach Graham has a passion for her sport and its development which will attract outstanding student-athletes to this new program right from the start. We are excited to have her bring her energy, drive and talents to our campus.”
In addition to her season at Chestnut Hill, Graham also served as a former Division I assistant coach at Canisius College from 2007-09. She also carries experience from high levels of competition as a student-athlete at Ithaca College and holds a master’s degree in sports administration from Canisius and a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in history from Ithaca College.
Reidy continued, "Lesley is a great fit with our current staff, and I am confident she will have a positive impact on and off the field for entire university in helping us achieve our athletic ideals and university mission."
As the 58th women’s lacrosse program at the NCAA Division II level, the Lions will join Rollins College as just the second D2 program in Florida to sponsor the sport. Graham will begin the task of building the team immediately, with plans to have the program begin practice in the fall of 2011.
“I want to thank Mr. Reidy for having the confidence in me to nurture and develop the women's lacrosse program from the ground up,” quoted Graham. “I believe the values, community and culture of Saint Leo strongly aid my vision to bring this university to the forefront of women’s lacrosse. I look forward to the challenge.”
The challenge for Lesley Graham and the Saint Leo women’s lacrosse team will begin in February, 2012.