Lesley Graham was named the first women’s lacrosse coach at Saint Leo University in September 2010, and guided the Lions into their initial competitive season in 2012.
Now heading into her fifth season mentoring the Saint Leo women's lacrosse team, Graham's once-nascent program has proven it can compete with the top teams in the nation and is poised for even greater success.
The 2015 campaign marked a watershed season for Saint Leo women's lacrosse, as the sport competed under the Sunshine State Conference banner. Not only did the Lions post a third straight winning season with a 9-8 record, but Saint Leo went 2-2 in its inaugural season of SSC round-robin play. The Green and Gold qualified for the first SSC Women's Lacrosse Championship, facing 11th-ranked Rollins in the semifinals. Among Saint Leo's wins during 2015 were a 10-6 win over No. 19 Belmont Abbey, and a 9-8 victory over a Bloomsburg squad ranked earlier in the season. Both wins were part of a four-game winning streak to start the season.
Five members of the team were named to the inaugural All-SSC team, including senior and First Team honoree Christina Minneci - a member of the program's first four-year graduating class, who graduated as the program's all-time leader in points (121) and goals (87). Four other Saint Leo athletes - junior Allie Sheftall, sophomore Kelsey Burns, and newcomers Abbie Ross and Amanda Coppolo - all received the nod as Second Team All-SSC selections.
In 2014, Graham led the program to its second-straight winning season with a 10-7 record, which marks the most wins in a single season. Graham’s squad included a four game win streak early in the season to set the tone for the Lions. By the end of the season her team had set or broken previous records in several statistical categories including points (230), goals (172), assists (58), saves (151), and wins (10). The team also posted 17 student-athletes on the Spring Commissioner’s Honor Roll and earned the prestigious IWLCA Division II Community Awareness Award.
In the program's second year of competition, Graham led the Lions to their first winning record in program history. The 2013 season saw the team finish with a record of 8-7, including a home record of 6-3. In addition, Graham's team had an excellent finish to the season, winning 5 of the last 7 games. The team set program records in goals scored (133), assists (50), man-up goals (9), and man-down goals (4). Her team featured six double digit goal scorers, including lead goal scorer Joanna Chadwick with 24 goals. Graham’s squad also consisted of eight double digit point scorers, including senior Stephanie Marran, with a team-leading 37. The 2013 squad featured five Division II All-Independent Honorees for their performance on the field.
In her initial season leading the Green and Gold, Graham guided her squad to a 5-9 record. Scoring her first-ever victory over against Catawba (19-2), Graham’s team also spouted-off a season-high three game winning streak during the middle portion of the year. In total, her team scored 136 goals, averaging nearly 10 goals per game. Her team featured four double-digit goal scorers, including a team-high 45 by Stephanie Marran. Additionally, the team sported three President’s Club honorees, two Division II Athletic Directors Academic Achievement Award winners, and six Sunshine State Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll selectees. Graham’s team also produced in the community as each student-athlete volunteered 20 hours of community service apiece.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Additionally, in the summer of 2012, Graham was selected to the NCAA Division II Women's Lacrosse Committee.
Graham resides in Wesley Chapel, Fla.