Pac-12 Lacrosse set for inaugural 2018 season

SAN FRANCISCO – Pac-12 lacrosse is set for its inaugural season, debuting Friday, February 9 with ARIZONA STATE at Kennesaw State at 12 p.m. PT. The newly founded league’s five other teams also open this week, highlighted by a ranked matchup between No. 17 COLORADO at No. 5 Florida on Sunday, February 11 at 9 a.m. PT on ESPN3.

Pac-12 lacrosse makes its debut this spring more than two years after Arizona State announced in Oct. 2015 that it would join five fellow Pac-12 members - CALIFORNIA, Colorado, OREGON, STANFORD and USC - in sponsoring the sport. The Pac-12 will be among 15 Division I leagues - including one of three major conferences (ACC, Big Ten) - to sponsor the sport and one of 13 to receive an automatic bid for its postseason tournament champion into the 26-team NCAA Championship. It is the Conference's 24th sponsored sport, the 13th for women.

Of the 112 Division I women's lacrosse programs, there are just 13 located outside the eastern time zone, including the six comprising the Pac-12 Conference.

League play will consist of a full 10-game round robin format to determine seeding for the inaugural Pac-12 Women's Lacrosse Championship hosted at Colorado's Prentup Field in Boulder, Colo., April 26-29.

Pac-12 Network will broadcast 12 contests during Pac-12 lacrosse's debut campaign, including all five matchups of the Pac-12 Championship.

The six Pac-12 lacrosse coaches bring a combined 18 NCAA National Championships to their programs, including 10 as student-athletes. The group also boasts gold, silver and bronze medals at the Women's Lacrosse World Cup, and Best Women's Player and Person of the Year by Lacrosse Magazine. All six coaches have a national or world medal as a coach or athlete.

Arizona State begins its first season of varsity competition in 2018, while California, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford and USC competed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) prior to this season. USC captured the 2017 MPSF Championship and NCAA Tournament automatic bid. Colorado finished second in the MPSF and earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Stanford finished third, Oregon fourth, and California sixth.

Coach Lindsey Munday leads USC into the 2018 season with a No. 8 national ranking in the IWLCA preseason poll and as the preseason Pac-12 favorite of the Conference coaches. The Trojans are the two-time defending MPSF regular-season and tournament champions and have been to the NCAA quarterfinals in each of the last two seasons; the furthest that any team from the West has ever advanced in the national tournament. The Trojans return third team All-American defender Lydia Sutton and All-MPSF goalie Gussie Johns to a formidable defense. USC also brings back reigning MPSF Rookie of the Year Kerrigan Miller.

Colorado earned a No. 17 IWLCA preseason ranking and was selected by the Conference coaches to finish second in the 2018 season. The Buffs finished the 2017 season 16-4 and advanced to their first-ever NCAA Tournament. The 16 wins was a program record. CU returns seven of its 12 starters including IWLCA All-Americans Sarah Brown and Darby Kiernan. Head coach Ann Elliott has guided the Buffs to a 51-24 mark in four years at the helm. She is the only coach the Buffs have ever had as they enter their fifth season.

Stanford, led by the league’s longest tenure head coach in Amy Bokker, rounds out the Pac-12 teams ranked in the IWLCA preseason poll, garnering a No. 23 national ranking and No. 3 preseason ranking by the Conference coaches. The Cardinal finished 12-6 in 2017 and concluded the season in the MPSF tournament semifinals. Stanford returns its all-time career leader in points in Kelsey Murray. Murray carries a 55-game point streak into 2018 and she will look to move her 225 career points into the NCAA record books. Murray also has 142 career goals – which places her third all-time in program history and only four shy of becoming Stanford's all-time leader.

Oregon, under second-year head coach Katrina Dowd, was selected to finish fourth by the Conference coaches. UO returns two All-MPSF selections in first team attacker Shannon Williams and second team attacker Cambi Cukar. Williams led the Ducks with 51 goals in 2017 while Cukar has already broken Oregon’s all-time career assists record with 124, including a team-high 42 assists last season. The Ducks added nine new players this season. Along with eight incoming freshmen, UO also added Louisville transfer goalie Brittany Read who was named the 2017 ACC Defender of the Year after leading the conference in saves, save percentage and saves per game.

California was selected to finish fifth in the preseason coaches poll. The Bears advanced to the MPSF tournament last year for the first time since 2013. Every member on this year’s roster has been coached by fourth-year head coach Brooke Eubanks for their entire career. Key returners include senior Meredith Haggerty, junior goalie Jenny Wilkens, and sophomore Susie Ropp. Haggerty was an All-MPSF and MPSF All-Tournament team selection in 2017. Wilkens earned multiple MPSF Defensive Player of the Week honors. Ropp ranked second in points (40) and assists (13), and third in goals (27) in the MPSF.

Arizona State rounded out the Conference in the preseason coaches poll. The entire 2018 season will welcome records and firsts for the Sun Devils as they compete in their inaugural season and the inaugural season of women's lacrosse in the Pac-12 Conference. Women's lacrosse was the 25th varsity sport added at ASU. The inaugural team features 33 underclassmen (22 freshmen and 11 sophomores) and just seven upperclassmen (four juniors and three seniors). Junior co-captains Kerri Clayton and Rachel Gregory will help lead the young team in its first year under coach Courtney Martinez Connor.