Saint Joseph's will move from the Colonial Athletic Association to join the Northeast Conference as an associate member in men's lacrosse beginning next season, NEC commissioner Noreen Morris announced Wednesday.
Saint Joseph's becomes the second associate member this week to announce a move to the NEC; Hobart said on Monday that it will join, raising the conference's membership in men's lacrosse to seven for the 2014 season. NEC core members Bryant, Mount St. Mary's, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart and Wagner all sponsor men's lacrosse.
"The changing landscape of college athletics and conference realignment created this opportunity to join the NEC, providing an option that suits our long-term interests and positions us for future success," Saint Joseph's athletic director Don DiJulia said. "We are extremely excited to join the NEC and to compete with these fine institutions as we continue to grow our men's lacrosse program."
Last season, Saint Joseph's celebrated the 20th anniversary of the sponsorship of men's lacrosse as a varsity sport. The Hawks had competed as a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for 14 seasons and then, after making a refocused commitment to the program, joined the CAA in 2011.
Saint Joseph's has made considerable improvement in the past two seasons under Wray, totaling more wins than in the previous three years combined. The Hawks went 6-9 in 2012 and 5-11 in 2013, which included a 7-6 win over 2012 CAA champion Massachusetts. Freshman attackman Pat Swanick was named to the CAA All-Rookie team, making him the first player in program history to earn postseason honors from the conference.
"The NEC is a conference committed to academic and athletic excellence, and it has demonstrated the commitment to building a premier lacrosse conference," Hawks coach Taylor Wray said. "It is clear to me that lacrosse is a priority sport for the NEC, and we are excited to be a part of it. We believe this is a great fit for Saint Joseph's and a great move for our program."
Saint Joseph's has a 19-17 all-time record against NEC programs, including a 3-2 mark since the NEC began sponsoring the sport officially in 2011.
"The addition of Saint Joseph's and Hobart will not only strengthen the NEC men's lacrosse brand, it will continue our upward trajectory in a sport where we are just scratching the surface of our potential," said NEC commissioner Morris. "Likewise, these two institutions also bring excellent traditions of academic success and community involvement, two areas in which the NEC strives to be a leader."