(Posted January 19, 2016)

Greg Curley, Juniata athletic director
Greg Curley, Juniata athletic director

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College has elected to add three new varsity sports to its formidable lineup of sports teams, beginning with the fall 2017 season. The college will be adding men's and women's golf teams, plus women's lacrosse, giving Juniata 22 varsity intercollegiate sports.

"Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the nation for high schools and colleges and many women are seeking opportunities to extend their careers as athletes while receiving a high quality education," says Greg Curley, Juniata athletic director and head coach for men's basketball. "Adding these sports also will allow us to extend our athletic recruiting beyond our traditional reach into states such as Maryland, New York, Virginia and New Jersey. The demographic profile of athletes playing lacrosse and golf fits our academic profile to a T."

Women's lacrosse is the fastest growing intercollegiate sport, with the number of teams increasing from 100 programs in 1980 to more than 350 today. In addition, adding women's lacrosse and women's golf as varsity sports will give Juniata 12 varsity sports available to women. Twelve varsity women's sports will help Juniata comply with NCAA Title IX requirements.

Juniata will compete in the Landmark Conference in both sports and all members of the conference already feature women's lacrosse or are committed to offering the spring sport in the 2017-2018 academic year. In golf, four institutions currently offer men's golf: Elizabethtown College, Moravian College, University of Scranton and Susquehanna University, with only Susquehanna offering women's golf.

"The market for college students seeking a personalized, liberal arts education is very competitive and offering these sports can give us a decided advantage in attracting students from northeastern states outside Pennsylvania where lacrosse and golf are hugely popular," explains James A. Troha, president of Juniata College. "We have made a commitment to improving our athletic and academic facilities to accommodate our academic recruitiment goals and I believe once students see our commitment to excellence they will want to be part of our growth."

"Adding these sports also will allow us to extend our athletic recruiting beyond our traditional reach into states such as Maryland, New York, Virginia and New Jersey. The demographic profile of athletes playing lacrosse and golf fits our academic profile to a T."

Greg Curley, athletic director

The lacrosse team will play and practice on the Winton Hill Athletic Complex, which will begin construction this summer in June 2016. The artificial turf field and six tennis courts that encompass the complex will feature lights, grandstands with a pressbox, and a fully equipped locker room complex that can easily accommodate the soccer, tennis, and lacrosse teams that would use the field. The complex will be sited along Cold Springs Road adjacent to Nathan Hall, the college's newest residence hall.

The college will soon start a national search for a full-time lacrosse coach, according to Curley. The golf teams will be overseen by a part-time coach. A typical lacrosse team has between 18 to 24 athletes and men's and women's golf teams feature slots for about 8 to 12 players.

The golf team will practice locally, and the college is currently in the process of identifying which local golf courses could best accommodate college practices and time commitments. There are currently 293 men's golf teams in the NCAA and 187 women's golf teams.

Although lacrosse is not traditionally popular in western or central Pennsylvania (most longtime Pennsylvania high school and college programs are east of Lancaster), the sport, particularly among women, is growing at a rapid pace. According to the U.S. Lacrosse Participation Survey, the number of NCAA women's lacrosse teams jumped 39 percent between 2009 and 2014, while women's high school lacrosse teams increased by 31 percent.

Curley says the college will start club sports programs in both sports to get ready for the official kickoff season and also to recruit students already enrolled at Juniata that might have experience in either sport.
The relative costs to add both sports will not significantly impact Juniata's bottom line. In golf, players bring their own clubs from home and the college provides team clothing. In lacrosse, women wear a simple (shorts and shirt) uniform, goggles and a mouthguard, because no contact is allowed in the field. Men's lacrosse must wear helmets, gloves and padding.

Contact Gabe Welsch at welschg@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.