On a college campus that lacked an organized lacrosse team, Delynnia Woitt set out to get one going.
She had played the sport in high school and hoped to drum up enough interest to start an intramural club on the Whitworth campus.
“That’s what I was working toward, trying to get people doing it and thinking maybe someone would notice us,” Woitt said.
But someone else already had the idea, too, with grander plans.
“Then one of my friends came up to me and said there was actually a coach coming to make a varsity team,” Woitt said.
That’s how Woitt came to be a senior on a team of freshmen – she technically also is one eligibility-wise – as Whitworth’s women’s lacrosse team began its inaugural season.
As the spring melt came to the athletics complex on campus, the lacrosse players were out with the track and field athletes, running laps in the Pine Bowl where they will play three more home games this season, starting with Saturday against Willamette.
“We’re always looking to expand opportunities for students,” said Tim Demant, Whitworth director of athletics. “(Lacrosse) just made sense, and from a facilities standpoint, the Pine Bowl gave us a perfect venue. We didn’t have to build anything separately. It fit in really well.”
The sport also had other aspects going for it: The Northwest Conference already sponsored it and had five teams (now seven, with Whitworth and Willamette starting programs this year). Its budget structure is relatively similar to other sports, Demant said.
After being hired as coach in May 2017, Noelle Brouillard set out to construct a roster. She traveled across the country recruiting new players, while also spreading the word around campus about the team and a sport that is still relatively new to the Northwest.
Grace Schmidt heard about the team and emailed Brouillard to see about joining. Schmidt had played at Sumner High School – which, coincidentally, started its girls lacrosse program when Schmidt was a senior there.
Now a senior at Whitworth, Schmidt said it has been encouraging to see how quickly the team has come together considering their varying levels of experience.
“Half the players haven’t played before, so we’re helping them to get to the level we want to be at,” Schmidt said. “But you wouldn’t even know from our first game to our third game. We’ve all grown together and learned how to play as a team together.”
Freshman Laura Wells, whose parents heard about the team in the Whitworth alumni magazine and told her about it, was one of those who had never played lacrosse before, but she said that has served her well in some ways.
For one thing, she had little preference on which position to play.
“We only had one goalie, so I started learning goalie,” said Wells, who played catcher on her high school softball team. “I don’t really have that fear of the ball like most people naturally have. Getting hit doesn’t really scare me. It just really clicked with me.”
That newness to the sport has been a benefit in other ways, too, Brouillard said, as players apply their knowledge and instincts from playing soccer, basketball and other sports to lacrosse.
“It brings different ideas and different ways of thinking about playing that maybe a traditional lacrosse player wouldn’t think to do, but ends up working,” Brouillard said.
Brouillard was an assistant coach at the University of Scranton (Pennsylvania), also Division III, before accepting the head coaching position at Whitworth. She also coached in England and played at Allegheny (Pennsylvania) College before that from 2010-13.
“It’s been awesome to see things come together,” Brouillard said. “We have people from different parts of campus, some who have never played lacrosse, and some who have played for a while growing up, so it’s cool bridging that gap and bringing everyone together on the field.”
While all 20 players on the roster technically have three more full years of eligibility, academically the roster is more balanced, with three seniors, eight juniors, one sophomore and eight freshmen.
As players graduate, the Pirates will settle into a more regular recruiting cycle.
So far the Pirates are 0-7 in their inaugural season, 0-4 in the NWC. After the Willamette game, they host George Fox on Sunday. Both games have 1 p.m. starts.
“We’re working toward creating a legacy, so our finished product isn’t gonna be seen this year,” Brouillard said, “but in four years we will look back at what started it.”
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