A pioneering day for the sport of lacrosse is on tap for this Saturday, as the professional United Women’s Lacrosse League (UWLX) embarks upon its inaugural season of play at Goodman Stadium on the campus of Lehigh University. As we head into this pivotal chapter of women’s lacrosse, we are speaking with our UWLX head coaches to provide commentary and insight regarding the season. Most recently, we spoke with Long Island Sound head coach Shannon Smith.
“For this to actually be a reality is just so exciting,” Smith said of the UWLX launch. “Youth, high school and especially collegiate players now have a professional league to aspire to reach. In the past, there was nothing for you to do after you graduated. To now have that is extremely exciting, and it is something that I wish I had the opportunity to do when I graduated. I am truly honored to be a part of this league, to help grow the game and to get the fans excited. This is really going to be great, and I think that it is going to help inspire younger kids who go to the Final Four and say ‘Hey, I want to have a chance to play in the Final Four and win a National Championship’ now that they have an opportunity to follow it up by playing professionally. The whole thing is just so exciting, and I am really happy to be a part of this historical moment.”
The Long Island Sound will be one of four clubs in the UWLX this season, joining the Baltimore Ride, Boston Storm and Philadelphia Force. 20-player rosters were assembled through a player draft and then completed through a selection of players who were present at an all-team draft camp earlier this month at St. Joseph’s University. Each team consists of 17 active players and three reserves, presenting 80 professional opportunities for athletes that did not previously exist.
“This is huge,” Smith continued. “Just looking at the Long Island Sound roster, we have players who played with each other in college, club ball or high school, and this has given them an extra opportunity to further their careers. To be able to once again play with some of your old teammates is not only exciting for the players but also great for the game. The players who are part of this league now are making history, and they are the key figures who will make this an even more powerful league in the years to come. They are all up for that responsibility, and I know they will be great ambassadors for the sport.”
As a player, Smith was one of the most decorated athletes in the history of women’s lacrosse, winning three NCAA Championships, three All-America First Team nods, as well as capturing the 2011 Tewaaraton Trophy and Honda Sports Award. Since transitioning to coaching, she has led Hofstra University to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championship Tournament three times and also earned 2015 CAA Coach of the Year accolades.
With a proven track record of success as both a player and coach, Smith now looks to apply her methodology to the professional game.
“When you look at our roster, the first thing you will notice is we have great players from top to bottom,” she stated. “We have a nice mix of veterans and younger players on our team. Devon Willis and Katie Rowan are veterans on our team who played in a World Cup with the U.S. team, and they are going to be great leaders for us to help build our chemistry and team communication. Those are some of the biggest challenges we will face in game one because the team has not been able to play together yet. When you look further into our roster, you will find players who played together before, whether that was in college, club ball or high school.”
While some players on the roster do have familiarity with one another, Smith admits that there will be a bit of an adjustment phase as they begin to acclimate themselves to their new surroundings.
“Since the players as a whole are not as familiar with each other yet, we as coaches will look to put them in situations where they can be successful and ultimately beat the Baltimore Ride on Saturday,” she remarked. “This is all just so exciting, and I think the goal for us at the Long Island Sound is to keep our game plan pretty simple and basic, allowing the players to have fun, enjoy the moment and be creative while they are on the field.”
In the first-ever UWLX match, the Baltimore Ride will take on the Long Island Sound this Saturday at 3:15 p.m., followed up by the Philadelphia Force against the Boston Storm at 5:00 p.m. Season passes for the 2016 UWLX season are available now online and can be purchased for the low price of just $25. Season passes are good for all 16 games that the UWLX will play in 2016.
For more information on the United Women’s Lacrosse League, make sure to follow the league on Twitter and like our official Facebook page.