The Army-Navy rivalry is coming to women's lacrosse.
Beginning with the 2016 season, the United States Military Academy will field its first varsity women's lacrosse team. The Black Knights will play in the Patriot League with Navy and Loyola.
Just as Navy did, Army will turn its successful club team into a varsity program over a two-year period. The Midshipmen are in their seventh season as a varsity program and have won the Patriot League championship the last four years.
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"Navy is very excited about the future rivarly," Mids coach Cindy Timchal said. "Hats off to Army to say we want women's lacrosse too. I think it's the perfect segue, seeing our level of success and saying we want to compete at that level too. I'm sure there's been a lot of push for that over the past few years."
Army athletic director Boo Corrigan announced the addition Monday, saying West Point will elevate the club team that has been competing 1979.
"This addition makes sense for us," Corrigan said in a news release posted on the Army athletics web site. "The academy has supported women's lacrosse at the club level for many years and has had great success. We look forward to continuing that tradition through the Division I platform in the Patriot League, which has proven to be one of the top lacrosse conferences in the country. We look to be successful on the lacrosse field and in the development of women officers in the U.S. Army."
Army, which offers 10 women's varsity sports, has not added one since soccer in 1986. With the Class of 2017 comprised of 16 percent women, the news release said, West Point officials expect those enrollment figures to rise as the Army increasingly needs more women officers in conjunction with the opening of combat roles to women.
"We believe the sport speaks directly to the warrior ethos that is one of the bedrocks upon which West Point is built. We are fortunate to attract the best and brightest here at West Point and we could not be more excited to provide another avenue, through women's lacrosse, to fulfill our mission in developing leaders of character," said Corrigan, a former associate athletic director at Navy and Notre Dame.
The search for a head coach is expected to begin right away.
Navy followed the same club-to-varsity path as it built to the program's debut in 2008. Navy, however, drew the sports' most successful coach to start its program. Timchal, who led Maryland to eight national championships and has more wins than any other coach in college lacrosse history, built a Patriot League champion in three years.
"Going Division I in any program, especially if you're starting from a club, it really is a huge transition," Timchal said.
"Obviously the planning is in place because the recruiting is going to have to take place, so that's why the start date isn't until 2016. I found it valuable when I got here that they had a real solid club program and I used some of those players in the process and I think Kelly Amonte did the same out at Northwestern and USC, probably the same and we can go right down the list. Now that they have a start date, with Boo at the helm, he's going to be hiring the best coaches to compete at the highest level."
Last season, the Midshipmen made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. This season, they are 4-0 and ranked No. 11 in the Brine Inside Lacrosse Women's Media Top 20.
Army will become the 108th Division I women's lacrosse program. Michigan, Colorado and Elon added the sport this season and Virginia Commonwealth will debut in 2016.