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Coast Guard Academy announced Monday that it will elevate the men's and women's club lacrosse teams to varsity status, effective with the 2014-15 academic year.
The teams will compete for the first time as Division III intercollegiate teams and make their New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference debut in 2015.
"This is a very significant stride for the CGA athletics program," athletic director Tim Fitzpatrick said. "It's a great thing to be able to accommodate the interests and talents of so many cadets by bringing two very strong club programs to the varsity level. The popularity and growth of lacrosse both regionally and nationally in the recent past is very well documented."
Coast Guard's current men's club team advanced to the MCLA National Collegiate Lacrosse Championship for the first time and will play Sam Houston State today in the opening round in Greenville, S.C. The MCLA is a national organization of non-NCAA, men's lacrosse programs.
"The decis ion to elevate the men's and women's lacrosse programs from club status to the varsity NCAA Division III level is a dream come true," men's coach Gary Weller said. "Our players are extremely excited."
The women's team is coached by Mary Bitzer, who was a member of the CGA team from 2006-09.
"Our team has been awaiting this moment for as long as I can remember," she said. "I know our team will be mentally and physically prepared to join the very challenging and competitive NEWMAC Conference."
Fran Shields, former chair of the NCAA Division III lacrosse committee and the athletic director at Connecticut College, said, "This is an exciting announcement for Coast Guard's student-athletes, but just as exciting for the growth of the sport."
- Day Staff Reports