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Nov. 8, 2015 — An intriguing pairing of coach and college

The westward expansion of NCAA women’s lacrosse is such that universities with great sports traditions such as the University of Southern California and the University of Colorado are picking up the sport.

And a lot of these new programs are attracting coaches from the Amonte-Hiller or the Timchal coaching trees, or players who have recently suited up for the U.S. national team.

But there is one pairing of coach and school which may soon yield success quicker than most of these new programs have any right to expect.

Arizona State University is one of the largest universities in the United States, with more than 90,000 students at its various schools and satellite campuses, and more than 50,000 at its main campus at Tempe. Arizona State has had great success in intercollegiate athletics, winning 22 NCAA titles, including five College World Series and two Women’s College World Series.

Coming in to coach the nascent Sun Devils program is none other than 2001 NCAA Final Four MVP Courtney Martinez Connor. The greatest defender of her generation, she is sometimes nicknamed “Five-Time,” because she received a medical red-shirt her freshman season. During all five lacrosse seasons she spent on campus as an undergraduate, Maryland received the Division I national championship plaque. Connor has cut her coaching teeth at places such as Mount St. Mary’s College, the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, and Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.), plus she and her husband run the C2 Lacrosse club out of Towson, Md..

There are going to be unique challenges and opportunities for her and for the new Arizona State program. State will become the sixth varsity women’s lacrosse program in the Pac-12 conference — and, as such, I think you’re going to see the other six campuses start the sport in very short order.

But I think what is going to separate the Arizona State program from the rest of the new entries is the state in which she will be coaching. Arizona’s Native American population is a shade more than five percent; the only two states with larger populations are California and Oklahoma. As such, I think it is a powerful statement — both symbolically and tangibly — that a great player such as Connor is going to be championing the Creator’s Game in Arizona.

I also think she will be able to reach young Latinas in the state; fully a quarter of the state of Arizona is of Mexican extraction.

It is going to be very exciting — and a bit intimidating. Given the roadblock that Florida has run into in the last couple of years in its development, it is not going to be easy. But Arizona State is starved for a champion, and I think Connor will be given everything she needs to be successful.

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