Michigan will field its first women's varsity lacrosse team in 2013 and, it was announced today, the Wolverines will play in the American Lacrosse Conference, home to Johns Hopkins and six-time national champion Northwestern.
In addition to the Blue Jays and Northwestern, which won the 2011 national title, the conference includes Florida, Vanderbilt, Penn State and Ohio State. Despite its youth, the conference regularly ranks among the top conferences in Division I. For seven of the past 10 seasons, the conference has had the top RPI. This year, all of the conference's teams were ranked in the national polls at some point during the season.
Johns Hopkins coach Janine Tucker, who took the Blue Jays from Division III to Division I in 1999, welcomes the addition as Michigan elevates a club program already in place.
"It's really a great program to add," Tucker said. "Our conference is very unique because we have such a different and interesting variety of schools and to have a school like Michigan that is going to really support the program and help it be good as quickly as possible is wonderful.
"It's just pretty neat to see the tremendous growth of the sport and how we can add a school like a Michigan, invited in, and embrace them into a conference that has taken off. We've got terrific schools and terrific coaches and we're really excited about having them as a new member."
The conference, which began in 2001 as a women's lacrosse-only conference, has a history of teams jumping into the national spotlight quickly. Florida, the most recent addition, reached the NCAA quarterfinals this spring in only its second year as a varsity program. Northwestern, which resurrected its varsity program in 2002, won the national title in just three years and won five straight from 2005 to 2009.
"The American Lacrosse Conference has a history of producing national champions, and we are proud to become its seventh member," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said in a news release. "This will be a great opportunity for our program to play in one of the top lacrosse leagues in the country."
In addition to Michigan, two other big-time sports schools will add women's lacrosse in 2013. Marquette will begin play as an independent and then join the Big East, which also includes Loyola, in 2014. USC will play in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation league along with such teams as Stanford, Denver and Oregon.
"Our sport is just so hot right now and so exciting and so fun that it's experiencing a lot of popularity," Tucker said. "It's growing all across the country from the youth level on and I think it's really neat that these bigger schools are embracing that they can bring this sport on and have it carry a lot of excitement in their schools."