Macon, Ga.– The Atlantic Sun Conference today announced Delaware State as its newest affiliate member for women’s lacrosse expanding the league to 10 programs starting in the 2017 season. The Hornets have participated as an NCAA Division I Independent since the program began in 2013.
“Women’s lacrosse continues to be one of the country’s fastest growing sports, and we are proud to add Delaware State University to our growing conference,” said A-Sun Commissioner Ted Gumbart. ”As the sport’s popularity expands, the A-Sun has doubled its lineup since the first season in 2013. We are well-positioned to promote the A- Sun and affiliate member institutions that battle for our NCAA Championship automatic bid. Delaware State will be an outstanding addition and we look forward to the contributions its women’s lacrosse team will make to the A-Sun.”
The Atlantic Sun has grown steadily since play started for the 2012-13 academic year beginning with five members. Over the past three seasons, A-Sun women’s lacrosse has added five affiliates; Furman, Mercer and Old Dominion. Central Michigan will begin play for the 2016 season, while Elon participated for one season in 2014. With the Hornets becoming the 10th member of the league, the A-Sun will have doubled as the sport continues to grow across the country.
“It’s a privilege for Delaware State University and our women’s lacrosse program to be associated with the Atlantic Sun Conference.” said Louis Perkins, Delaware State University interim athletic director. “The A-Sun is well recognized for its competitive teams and commitment to academic excellence, and is a great fit for our growing women’s lacrosse program. We are extremely happy to be associated with the outstanding Atlantic Sun institutions, and look forward to spirited competition and lasting relationships in the years ahead.”
Jillian Lontz has been the only head coach in Delaware State women’s lacrosse history. The Lancaster, Pa. native was a standout player at Wesley College, where she earned Capital Athletic Conference All-Academic recognition. Lontz has previously coached at the high school and collegiate level, serving as an assistant at her alma mater before joining Delaware State.
“I’m excited that our lacrosse program will join such a great conference as the Atlantic Sun. In addition to the new rivalries that conference membership will create, it also provides opportunities for our student-athletes to compete for various honors and awards, and our team to vie for post-season play,” said Lontz. “I want to thank the Delaware State University administration and Atlantic Sun Conference for their hard work in making the first conference membership for the Hornet lacrosse program a reality.”
The Atlantic Sun is coming off its most impressive season in league history. The league finished with its highest league RPI ranking of 12 in 2015, while teams combined for 36 non-conference wins, a new single-season record. Three new teams completed their inaugural seasons in the A-Sun in 2015 with Old Dominion, Furman and Mercer.
Lacrosse is the fastest growing women's sport both at the high school and collegiate level. According to the US Lacrosse Participation Survey, the number of women's lacrosse teams at the NCAA level increased 38.9 percent between 2009 and 2014, and the number of high school girls' teams increased 31.2 percent. That growth, particularly throughout the Southeast, led to the Atlantic Sun Conference beginning sponsorship of women’s lacrosse in 2013, with champion Jacksonville earning the conference's first women's lacrosse automatic bid.
(story contains information from the Atlantic Sun Conference)