A newly announced addition to the California Lutheran Universitys athletic family will be arriving to campus in 2020 in the form of a women’s lacrosse program.
After a lengthy process of trying to get the sport approved at Cal Lutheran, Jim McHugh, associate vice president for Athletic Affairs and Title IX coordinator, said he is excited for the new addition.
“We’ve been talking about it for a couple of years now and it’s about that time to go and figure it all out,” McHugh said. “People are excited. There are students here who played in high school that are so excited that while they’re here this sport will be here. There’s talk in the community about it already. I know someone who was at an event that was talking about us adding lacrosse here—it’s been great.”
The addition of lacrosse in part goes along with the recent addition of men’s volleyball, which was added in 2016.
“Women’s lacrosse is a sport that is already in the conference, so it takes the time to figure out the finances and all that stuff,” McHugh said. “We had brought in men’s volleyball, which isn’t a SCIAC sport and when a sport is not part of the conference then it costs more because there’s more travel.”
The Athletic Director of Cal Lutheran sports, Dan Kuntz, is also looking forward to Cal Lutheran women’s lacrosse as it will join the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2020.
“The league has had it—there’s been I think six teams, for quite a while now so they were looking for another school to get involved to then make it seven teams that would give the opportunity to give an AQ, which means and ‘automatic qualification,’ into the NCAA and would create a championship within the conference,” Kuntz said.
There are also enrollment benefits for Cal Lutheran, as it will attract a larger group of potential students who are wanting to play lacrosse in college.
“There’s more and more athletes from this area that are representing women’s lacrosse across this country and we want to be a part of that,” Kuntz said.
As for the process of adding a new sport to Cal Lutheran’s lineup, Kuntz and McHugh were on a panel with donors and President Chris Kimball to make the decision.
“We were in consultation with the president and then looking at the budgeting on that and then it gets put into the cabinet and they then talk about it and then we put in budget requests and then it’s the board of regents that then approves the budget part of it,” McHugh said.
Cal Lutheran also wanted to focus on being able to offer an equal amount of sports opportunities to the men and women of this campus.
“It’s really a university decision rather than just mine,” said Kuntz. “Part of it, we wanted to have an equal number of sport opportunities for males and females on this campus—that’s something that is important for us, to try and sustain that if it works over time. In addition to that, it’s a burgeoning sport—especially here in this area.”
Current students of Cal Lutheran are also looking forward to the addition of the program and some are even looking to join when the team starts its first season two years from now. First-year sisters, Cameron and Sarah Mendez are already planning on joining the new team.
“We played for around seven years—our goal was to always go to college and play because we loved it so much, but obviously academics came first, but it was always a plus if we were to play in college,” Sarah Mendez said.
Though they chose Cal Lutheran, originally a school without the sport they loved, they wanted to try and make the best of it and be involved to make it a potential club team available for girls.
“It definitely was a shock when we came to Cal Lu—we love Cal Lu, cause we grew up here in Thousand Oaks—and seeing all these schools that we could essentially play lacrosse at, we were just like; ‘You know what, it’s the next chapter in our lives, we’ll go on and see what happens,’ but we prayed for Cal Lu to have a lacrosse team,” Cameron Mendez said. “We went to Jim McHugh and some other athletic people over the summer to see what we could, maybe get something started like a club, and I think we did what we could do to get something started.”
As far as the new program goes, the Cal Lutheran Sports administrators are in the process of hiring a coach to lead the first women’s lacrosse team.
“We’re looking to hopefully hire someone by the end of the summer. That will give them roughly a year or a year plus to set up the program,” McHugh said.
The future looks bright for the Cal Lutheran sports community, as in continues to grow.
“Many of our sports started and then began and then we grew to make them bigger and better,” Kuntz said. “We’re still working on that with some sports, and we hope to do that with lacrosse.”