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Women’s lacrosse starting at YSU

YOUNGSTOWN — Being a first-year head coach is not an easy task.

Being a first-year head coach while having to set up a new program is even more of a challenge, especially when it’s your first time as the leader of a program.

Theresa Walton is up for the task, though. She is at the helm for Youngstown State University’s new women’s lacrosse program, which is set to take the field in the 2020-21 school year.

Walton is optimistic as she builds the groundwork for the future.

“The biggest thing is kind of feeling out what type of student-athlete the program here is going to attract,” she said. “Every school is going to have a different selling point to what type of students want to come to eastern Ohio, and so far we’ve been really excited about the areas that we’ve gotten to come here.

“I think the sky’s the limit to what the program can do, and it’s definitely exciting to know that we really haven’t had any hangups on the recruiting side, which has been our main goal so far this fall.”

The lacrosse team held its official visit weekend on Nov. 2, and the team’s 21 incoming freshmen had the opportunity to meet as a group prior to the YSU football game.

Facility upgrades have already started at YSU, as shot clocks for lacrosse were recently installed at Farmer’s National Bank Field.

“So, with the administration support and facilities helping us a ton, shot clocks have been the first step really on that field. The next step I hope would be the lines, and then following that I believe will be the back nets,” Walton said.

“Just with how many shots that fly through practice and games, they definitely want to be able to protect that turf a little more, keep balls contained, so the back nets are going to be huge. Then, of course, we’re getting our turf lines on, and that’ll be nice to be able to split that with soccer.”

Last week, the Mid-American Conference announced that it would adding women’s lacrosse in the 2020-21 school year, and YSU and Detroit-Mercy were asked to join as affiliate members along with Akron, Kent State and Central Michigan. Eastern Michigan will round out the six-team league when it begins play in 2021-22.

Walton said playing in the MAC will be important for the YSU program.

“Honestly, it was the best-case scenario, just with knowing that the conference is going to shake out at some point,” she said. “We thought maybe two, three years down the road, so for that for be happening the first season, for these girls to compete for a conference championship, is great.

“I mean, it’s the best feeling as a student-athlete to know that those are small increment goals throughout the spring that you can really break down. Then, do a really good job with scheduling out of conference, and then just to have rivalries. Once you’re playing April games and early March games, it’s really great to have that rivalry and know that that’s what you’ve been gunning for from the first time you step on campus.”

Walton was hired by YSU in July after previously serving as an assistant coach at Division I Virginia Commonwealth, a program she also helped start. Prior to that, she was on the staff at Division II University of Mount Olive and Division III Alma College in Michigan.

She said she thinks her experience will help her at YSU.

“I think each program, no matter were I’ve been at, it’s been awesome to know that all that experience is really going to help. As an assistant you’re wearing a lot of different hats, especially learning from each head coach I’ve worked with,” she said.

“I think one of the biggest things that I’d love to carry over here is just knowing our team, the girls, each individual, will be so respected on campus, all the way from the athletic department, to each of their respective majors, and then of course through the community.”

After climbing the ranks and landing a position as a head coach, Walton is excited to hit the ground running at YSU.

“That was something I was chomping at the bit for, I think, I was just trying to take one season at a time. Once I applied for this job and got here on campus for the interview, it checked every box, and then some.

“To know that I’ll be able to start it here and hopefully stay long-lasting, and really build it as a strong program in the country. It’s awesome to know that it is my first head coaching job, for sure.”

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