Gary Gait brings golden touch to UWLX as interim commissioner

As anticipation builds towards the second season of UWLX, the newest chapter in this exciting sporting odyssey consists of an individual whose impact in lacrosse is manifold. Appointed to the position of interim commissioner, Gary Gait not only brings great awareness to the budding league, but helps increase its prominence.

Refusing to be sustained by legend alone, Gait has only added to his lacrosse legacy since retirement, with an enthralling legacy as coach that runs parallel to his playing career. Inheriting the position from Michele “DJ” DeJulius, who helped navigate UWLX during its successful inaugural season, Gait is poised to build on her contributions, while supplying strong leadership, running parallel to the aspirations of the sport in general.

Considering that the second UWLX season shall see the league engage in a collaborative effort for this year’s NCAA lacrosse championships with Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots, Gait’s presence only adds to the major league feeling surrounding the league’s aura. Although this newest role sees Gait in his first at the executive level, his solid work ethic and dedication over multiple decades has prepared him for such an exciting opportunity.

Raised in Victoria, British Columbia, where his twin brother Paul also played alongside him, Gait’s position as UWLX interim commissioner adds another unique Canadian connection to the league. In 2016, Guelph, Ontario native Dana Dobbie became the first Canadian-born player to be drafted into the league, suiting up with the Baltimore Ride.

In regular season play, Dobbie would lead all players in scoring. Both Gait and Dobbie have played for the Canadian national team. As a side note, other Canadians to have competed in the inaugural UWLX season included Bowmanville, Ontario’s Kaylin Morrissette with Philadelphia. Raised in Suffern, New York, Crysti Foote, whose father is in Ontario’s lacrosse Hall of Fame, was born in Toronto and competed with the Baltimore Ride, playing alongside Dobbie.

During the 1990s, Gait’s superstar status in lacrosse not only made it comprehensible for the sporting novice, but he made it matter. Akin to Wayne Gretzky in hockey or Michael Jordan in basketball, Gait’s countless lists of achievements were secondary to the spectacle, culminating as a member of the charter class to the National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame.

Surprisingly, the latter half of the 1990s saw Gait balance his playing career while experiencing his first foray with women’s lacrosse. Serving as an assistant coach with the University of Maryland Terrapins, his presence resulted in four undefeated seasons and seven straight national championships.

Having also coached at the men’s level with the Baltimore Bayhawks, which has seen the city also host one of the UWLX founding clubs, along with the Colorado Mammoth, Gait’s efforts as a women’s coach were clearly evident during the inaugural UWLX season. Only the second head coach in the history of the Syracuse Orange women’s lacrosse team, several of his star players were among the first round of the inaugural UWLX draft class, including the likes of Liz Hogan (Boston Storm) and Michelle Tumolo (Philly Force). Other Syracuse alum that would compete in UWLX play included Becca Block, Kailah Kempney, Alyssa Murray, Katie Rowan and Kayla Treanor.

Gait’s acumen and encyclopedic knowledge of the game did more than just raise the quality of play at Syracuse. His tutelage transformed players such as Hogan and Tumolo into All-American players and IWLCA Award winners, while emerging as franchise players for their respective UWLX clubs.

Among the prodigious talents that Gait had the opportunity to coach at Syracuse, perhaps none shone brighter than Kayla Treanor. The first four-time All-America selection in Syracuse women’s lacrosse history, Treanor emerged as the Boston Storm’s catalyst on offense in 2016, leading them to the UWLX Finals. Her no-look pass in late June play during the Storm’s inaugural season would not only gain recognition as one of ESPN’s Plays of the Week, it would serve as a seminal moment in UWLX lore, bringing the league into the national spotlight.

With a golden touch that has resulted in championships as a player and coach at the collegiate, professional and international levels, Gait’s body of work, of which many subsets exist, speaks for itself. Such a distinct presence is poised to make ideas flourish, while working towards making professional women’s lacrosse more than viable, but a necessary component of the sporting landscape, which may serve as his greatest contribution.

Opening weekend filled with historic milestones for UWLX

As the highly anticipated opening day arrived, it would prove to be an exciting time for the United Women’s Lacrosse League (UWLX). League co-founder Digit Murphy, one of the most accomplished women’s hockey coaches of her generation always liked to tell her players, “Every day, we are making history.”
Undoubtedly, that pioneering spirit defined opening day as all four teams took to the field at Goodman Stadium in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. As a side note, all teams shall be participating in a barnstorming schedule, allowing a great opportunity for fans throughout the Eastern United States to appreciate this latest chapter in American women’s sports.

With pleasant 91 degree weather, complemented by a vigorous sunshine blanketing the field of play, it helped set the tone for opening day. The emphasis on such a meaningful day was one defined by sportsmanship, fair play and perhaps more importantly, an empowering achievement.

Such a day started with the Baltimore Ride and the Long Island Sound facing off, both ambitiously looking towards gaining the first win in league history. With no shortage of talent on either side, as evidenced by the results in the historic UWLX Draft, excitement built as to which player would score the first goal of the game, which would simultaneously be the first in league history.

This unique distinction would belong to Baltimore’s Beth Glaros, who took a feed from Courtney Swan, firing the ball past Long Island goaltender Devon Wills. Said goal would be scored under the four minute mark, although the early lead would not be relished for long.

Action from inaugural UWLX match. Photo credit: John Strohsacker

Action from inaugural UWLX match. Photo credit: John Strohsacker

Long Island quickly replied, as McKinley Curro tallied the equalizer, making her own mark with the first goal in team history. Curro would continue to make an impression early in the game, breaking the tie with the first two-point goal in league history.

Despite the advantage, Long Island would not be able to contain Baltimore, watching its lead evaporate. By halftime, Baltimore enjoyed a 7-6 lead, as head coach Jen Adams, one of the most prominent individuals in modern lacrosse, was in a position to possibly become the first winning coach in league history.

As the second half progressed, neither team was able to make any inroads and grab a convincing lead. Instead, the score was 12-12 heading into the last minute of play. Although Baltimore would score the first goal of the game, it was Long Island that would score the last. Alyssa Leonard would score the first game-winning goal in UWLX history as goaltender Devon Wills made a last second save to preserve the historic win. Lindsay Scott would also lead the way for Long Island by scoring the first hat trick in franchise history.

Boston Storm and Baltimore Ride players chat in between games (Image obtained from: https://twitter.com/unitedwlax)

Boston Storm and Baltimore Ride players chat in between games (Image obtained from: https://twitter.com/unitedwlax)

With the Philadelphia Force and Boston Storm both fighting for bragging rights in the second game, anticipation built over which players would log their respective team’s first-ever goals. Rebecca Lynch would carve her place in league history, logging the first goal of the game and the first in Force history. Assisted by Hilary Bowen, Boston first round pick Liz Hogan allowed said goal.

Despite the early setback, Boston’s Kailah Kempney would tie the score, recording the club’s first goal, with the assist credited to Danielle Estrasco. The quick exchange of goals set the tone for most of the first half as the score was tied at 5-5. Despite Philadelphia’s Katie Webster breaking the deadlock, it would be the last time that her team enjoyed any scoring advantage in the game. Boston would score another four goals, as the scoreboard at halftime reflected a 9-6 lead in their favor.

As Philadelphia goaltender Bridget Bianco was peppered with shots in the second half, compiling 11 overall, her teammates struggled to mount an offensive attack, managing to score only two more goals. The second half saw Boston make adjustments, as their defense shut down the Force. With the offense maintaining their high scoring ways, Boston would emerge as the highest scoring team on opening day, compiling 16 goals.

The 16-8 final saw Danielle Spencer of Boston and Kara Mupo of Philadelphia lead their teams in scoring. Coincidentally, each player would score a two-point tally, resulting in other franchise firsts. Statistically, Spencer’s five points were a game-high, while Kempney scored four goals and Estrasco logged a hat trick for Boston. Other goal scorers for the victorious Boston squad included Kristin Igoe, Tanner Guarino and Kara Cannizzaro.

UWLX the newest chapter in Dana Dobbie’s distinguished career

As the Baltimore Ride prepare for their inaugural season in the ground-breaking UWLX, the squad shall consist of a proud international presence. Raised in Guelph, Ontario, Dobbie becomes the first Canadian ever drafted in UWLX history.

Having established herself as one of the finest competitors in the history of the Maryland Terrapins, Dobbie is also the most decorated player among those that have donned the Maple Leaf for the Canadian national women’s lacrosse team. Selected by the Ride with their eighth overall pick, she may prove to be the steal of the draft.

Joining Dobbie on the Ride are four other Terrapins alums including Katie Schwarzmann, the first pick overall in the draft, Alex Aust, Beth Glaros and Brooke Griffin. In addition, there is a highly familiar face in head coach Jen Adams.

Since 2007, their exemplary lacrosse careers have run parallel. A native of Australia, Adams made history as the first-ever female recipient of the Tewaaraton Trophy, and was on the Terrapins coaching staff when Dobbie transferred from Ohio University.

One year after graduating, Dobbie would join Adams on the coaching staff of the Baltimore-based Loyola Greyhounds. With Adams gaining her first head coaching opportunity, Dobbie would prove to be the perfect fit on her coaching staff. Since then, the results have spoken for themselves with back-to-back Big East postseason titles and consecutive Patriot League crowns. As a side note, the two are proprietors in Seven Lacrosse Training.

Appointed as the first head coach in Ride franchise history, Adams will definitely look to Dobbie to provide team leadership. As the Ride allows Dobbie and Adams to be on the same team for the third time in their careers, their lacrosse legacies should help positively shape the team culture, propelling the club into the conversation for the first-ever UWLX championship.

While Dobbie built a solid career in coaching, she has still proven to be a superstar on the field. Considering the perspective obtained from coaching, her acumen has translated into an even more proficient on-field vision, which benefits her teammates.
For the younger players on the Ride, Dobbie will definitely take on the personna of a playing coach.

As the cornerstone of the Canadian national team, Dobbie has appeared in the last two FIL Women’s World Cups (2009, 2013). At the 2013 edition of the World Cup, held on Canadian soil in Oshawa, Ontario, she would lead the national team to a silver medal, its best-ever finish in World Cup history.

Although the 2013 FIL World Cup did not have the same fanfare as the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup (of which Canada was the host country), it was still a landmark event in Canadian female sporting history. Undoubtedly, what Christine Sinclair means to women’s soccer in Canada, Dobbie holds that same impact for women’s lacrosse.

In the aftermath of Canada capturing the gold medal at the 2015 U18 Women’s World Championships, Dobbie showed a touch of class and published an open letter online praising the team’s historic efforts. Displaying a remarkable sincerity and gratitude, it was testament to Dobbie’s strong leadership, setting a positive example for those young players to emulate.

Franchise foundations part of inaugural UWLX Draft class

As the UWLX nears closer to its opening day, the 2016 UWLX Draft brought with it a sense of anticipation for its growing fan base, eager to see which of the game’s brightest stars would be landing.

The first round consisted of a phenomenal class as the Boston Storm selected goaltender Liz Hogan. It was a trend that continued as the Long Island Sound obtained legendary goaltender Devon Wills with their first pick. The first female player to sign a contract in the men’s National Lacrosse League, Wills, who also starred with Dartmouth and Team USA is poised to become a star attraction in the incipient league.

Midfielder Katie Schwarzmann would become the first-ever draft pick in Baltimore Ride history, while attacker Michelle Tumolo shall be expected to be a significant part of the offensive attack for the Philly Force. Taking into account their geographic proximity, the Baltimore-Philadelphia rivalry should be among the finest in UWLX, with Schwarzmann and Tumolo headlining many epic contests.

Complete list of picks by team:

Boston Storm
1: Liz Hogan, Goalie
2: Jenn Russell, Defender
3: Sarah Bullard, Midfielder
4: Kara Cannizzaro, Midfielder
5: Erin Slifer, Midfielder
6: Holly Reilly, Defender
7: Danielle Etrasco, Attacker
8: Kailah Kempney, Attacker
9: Kristin Igoe, Midfielder
10: Colleen Magarity, Midfielder

Baltimore Ride
1: Katie Schwarzmann, Midfielder
2: Alex Aust, Attacker
3: Kristen Carr, Defender
4: Brooke Griffin, Attacker
5: Allyson Carey, Midfielder
6: Morgan Stephens, Defender
7: Courtney Swan, Attacker
8: Dana Dobbie, Attacker
9: Beth Glaros, Midfielder
10: Sam Farrell, Defender

Long Island Sound
1: Devon Wills, Goalie
2: Alyssa Leonard, Attacker
3: Shannon Gilroy, Midfielder (Florida)
4: Becca Block, Defender (Syracuse)
5: Megan Douty, Defender (Maryland)
6: Sloane Serpe, Defender (North Carolina)
7: Nora Barry, Midfielder (Florida)
8: Katrina Dowd, Attacker (Northwestern)
9: Katie Rowan, Attacker (Syracuse)
10: Kelly McPartland, Midfielder (Maryland)

Philly Force
1: Michelle Tumolo, Attacker
2: Alyssa Murray, Attacker
3: Kara Mupo, Attacker
4: Bridget Bianco, Goalie
5: Becky Lynch, Attacker
6: Casey Pepperman, Defender
7: Demmianne Cook, Midfielder
8: Katie Hertsch, Defender
9: Emily Garrity, Midfielder
10: Samantha Cermack, Midfielder

Legendary lacrosse coach Amy Patton to lead Boston in UWLX

As the United Women’s Lacrosse League (UWLX) gets closer towards opening day, a key step forward has involved the naming of its head coaches. With the founding clubs in Baltimore, Boston, Long Island and Philadelphia, each team has attracted significant talent to the coaching helm.

Among such talent is Amy Patton, whose legendary coaching career has involved 23 stellar seasons with the Dartmouth Big Green women’s lacrosse program in Ivy League play. Joining Patton in this inaugural coaching class will be the likes of Jen Adams (Baltimore), Missy Doherty (Philadelphia) and Shannon Smith (Long Island).

Photo credit: Gil Talbot, http://www.dartmouthsports.com/

Photo credit: Gil Talbot, http://www.dartmouthsports.com/

In NCAA circles, Patton’s impact as a coach is akin to the likes of Bobby Bowden (football), Mike Krzyzewski (basketball) and Mark Johnson (hockey). Her status as a living legend also mirrors one of UWLX’s co-founders, Digit Murphy, who spent over two decades at the helm of the Ivy League’s Brown Bears women’s ice hockey program.

Such presence ensures that there will be fundamentally sound leadership on a Boston team looking to capture the inaugural UWLX championship. With a coaching resume that boasts 241 wins (116 in Ivy League play) and 13 NCAA tournament appearances, including a Finals appearance in 2006, complemented by a stellar nine Ivy League titles, she will strategically motivate her players in Boston while ensuring there is loyalty and accountability.

At Dartmouth, she has earned career double digit wins against programs such as Boston College (11-0), Boston University, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Penn, Princeton and Vermont. Of all those programs, she boasts an undefeated mark against Boston College (11-0) and has earned at least 20 wins against both Brown and Cornell, respectively.

The list of accomplished players during her tenure at Dartmouth is testament to her coaching legacy. From 46 All-American selections, 33 First-Team All-Ivy and 22 national team members, including Whitney Douthett and Devon Wills. Patton’s career also includes multiple Ivy League Players of the Year and Rookies of the Year. As a side note, the two most recent winners of the Ivy League Player of the Year Award include Kat Collins in 2011 and Sarah Plumb in 2012.

Of note, 12 of Patton’s players, including Wills, the first woman to sign a contract with the men’s National Lacrosse League and the 2009 World Cup MVP, serve in a coaching capacity at the collegiate level, extending her proud legacy.

As Patton looks to create a new legacy with the Boston team, there is no question that those who play for her will see their skills enhanced and their knowledge of the game broaden. Perhaps the greater victory will be in the fact that all will be part of an exciting new chapter for female sport in America, as professional women’s lacrosse benefits from the presence of such groundbreaking women.

Digit Murphy spearheads exciting movement in lacrosse with arrival of new league

Women’s hockey fans are familiar with the name Digit Murphy. Evoking a standard of coaching excellence, Murphy’s legacy is without dispute. The first woman to be inducted into Brown University’s Wall of Honor, she led the Bears to over 300 wins, a program mark that is poised to stand for generations.

In a remarkable three-year run with the CWHL’s Boston Blades, Murphy became the first female coach to lead her team to three straight Clarkson Cup appearances, and the first female coach to also win two Clarkson Cups. In addition, she was also the winning coach for the CWHL’s inaugural All-Star Game. Although her absence from the Blades this season marks a significant loss for CWHL hockey, she is still heavily involved in women’s sports.

Noted as a Title IX champion, Murphy is working with Aronda Kirby (also co-founders of the Play It Forward Sport movement), who was the Blades’ General Manager during such a magical time, and have blazed an empowering new trail in women’s lacrosse. The result is the UWLX, the first professional league of its kind for women in lacrosse, one that shall see its first chapter written in the spring of 2016.

While Murphy acquired a remarkable skill set as a head coach with Brown, molding a generation of young women into leaders and role models in society, her three seasons with the Blades also resulted in business acumen. Along with Aronda Brown, the two conceived numerous marketing ideas, including a charitable golf tournament.
Their collaborative efforts are poised to transform the UWLX into the next great venture for female sport in America. Considering that the sport has been contested for years at the NCAA level, many of these talented women in the sport had no place to go after their collegiate careers reached its twilight.

Adding to the growing awareness of women in lacrosse was the legendary Devon Wills. Of note, Wills was signed by the National Lacrosse League, a professional men’s league that has existed for over two decades, breaking the gender barrier. Currently, Wills works as an associate head coach with the University of Southern California’s lacrosse team.

Since the hiring of Michele DJ Dejuliis as the commissioner for UWLX, there has been no shortage of interest among players, eager to extend their careers. Young stars that could serve as a cornerstone for the league include Covington Stanwick and Sarah Mannelly, a remarkable duo with Boston College, Kayla Treanor from Syracuse and Michigan’s Katie Mezwa. Recognized as one of the top Division I players in the US Lacrosse Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates, Mezwa led the Wolverines to a 15-1 record and a spot in the NCAA tournament.

With programs such as Duke, North Carolina and Virginia constantly among the best in the country, it would come as no surprise if they become the power plants for producing elite long term talent for the UWLX. As a side note, such regions would also be ideal spots for franchises, helping provide a strong voice for women’s professional sports.

Considering Murphy and Brown held backgrounds in hockey, their decision to venture into lacrosse may have been perceived as unforeseen. As the architects of a sustainable business model for women in sport, their inspiration came from several sources.

Through the efforts of their PR company, “The Barnyard Group”, several events in New York were the catalyst to augment discussion and encouragement in the fight for pay equity, one that has hovered over women’s hockey like a black cloud for far too long. Among said events was an invitation to the Impact Leadership 21 Summit at the United Nations, which brought much needed awareness to the struggles of pay equity, especially the unfair dismissal of fellow coaching legend Shannon Miller.

The stage where discussion and planning evolved into reality took place in the unlikeliest of places, with a coincidental link to hockey. Every spring, coaches from throughout the United States attend the AHCA convention in Naples, Florida, a focal point where individuals gather for learning, idea sharing and the opportunity to expand their set of contacts.

While there, Murphy ran into a pair of representatives from STX, a manufacturer of sporting equipment. One of the representatives, Ed Saunders, had hockey roots in New England, where he once worked for Hockey East in a media relations capacity. Having known Murphy from that role, as Brown was based in Rhode Island, the two shared stories, and intrigue grew from Murphy’s experiences in New York with the pay equity discussion.

Revealing to Murphy that STX is also involved in lacrosse, even sponsoring a group of female players to compete with Team STX (although they are not in a formal league), it would serve as the motivational vehicle that helped bring about UWLX. With STX proudly on board as an equipment sponsor, providing encouragement along this remarkable journey, an outpouring of support and appreciation has been felt throughout the lacrosse community, the result has been a labor of love for Murphy and Brown, as the message of equal opportunity in sport only grows stronger.