Editor’s note: Thanks for joining us over Memorial Day Weekend 2020 to help you heal those lax-blues… we didn’t even get to say goodbye… LaxAllStars.com and our social outlets will be pumping out a non-stop stream of content from Thursday until Monday completely focused on some of the greatest NCAA National Championship moments from the past. We hope you stick around.
The ranks of the elite in women’s lacrosse coaching is a small and defined class, but amongst the most decorated and accomplished in all of sports. A dozen programs have earned the right to call themselves champions in the NCAA’s Division I. Of the 37 annual meetings to claim rights as the country’s best, only a group of roughly 10% of all the DI programs have ever claimed the glory. A mere 13 coaches in total have earned the NCAA National Championship honors.
The list of women that have won the NCAA Finals at the Division I level and are still coaching in the game today is short. Short, but packed with a lot of rings. Seven total coaches are still at the DI level, six with the same programs they won their first championship with. Of the seven, four have won multiple titles. Astoundingly, only seven coaches in the history of the tournament have won the championship just once.
We’re spending this lacrosse-less Memorial Day Weekend looking back at the NCAA National Championships of years past. It’s the best way we can all cope together as we are still stuck indoors.
NCAA Championship Coaches
Current Head Coach: Navy
Coach Championships: Maryland
First Championship: 1992
Next Championships: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001
Where do you start with a woman elected into eight total halls of fame? A member of the 2012 US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame and 2017’s inaugural IWLCA Hall of Fame of Fame class, Navy head coach Cindy Timchal is both parts pioneer and winner. Although the season was cut short, Timchal was in her 38th year as a head coach and remains the NCAA’s all-time leader in career wins (525) for Division I women’s college lacrosse. Her coaching career began in 1982 when she helped found the Northwestern program, leading it for nine seasons before departing for Maryland where she spent 16 seasons and amassed the majority of her accolades.
In just her first season in College Park, Timchal took the Terps to the 1991 National Championship, falling short, only to return in 1992 to the secure the hardware. Maryland would come up empty handed in the semis in 1993 and again in the title game in 1994 before starting one of the most dominant runs in sports history. For seven-straight seasons, Coach Timchal and the Terrapins were National Champions, spanning from 1995 to 2001. That includes an unprecedented four undefeated seasons and a mountain of player and coach awards. After the 2006 season, Timchal took on the role of the first women’s lacrosse coach at the United States Naval Academy where still still leads the program.
Head Coach: Princeton
First Championship: 1993
Next Championships: 2002 & 2003
Since making the tournament for the first time in 1993, Chris Sailer has returned 22 of the next 25 seasons with the Princeton Tigers. The first of three National Championships for Sailer came in 1994, capping a near-flawless, 16-1, record and clean, 6-0, run through the Ivy League. Sailer captured the feeling twice more with back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003.
Inducted as a member of the 2008 US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame inductee, Chris Sailer has led Princeton to three NCAA championships, 11 Final Four appearances, 26 NCAA tournament appearances and 15 Ivy League titles. Now in her 34th guiding Princeton women’s lacrosse, Coach Sailer is the first lacrosse coach, male or female, ever to reach 400 wins at one Division I school.
Head Coach: Virginia
First Championship: 2004
Never missing the NCAA Tournament in her first 24 years at the head of Virginia women’s lacrosse, record-setting coach Julie Myers has led the Hoos to the postseason all but one year, 2020. Heading into her 26th season at the helm, Myers has only managed to cut the net once as the head coach. That’s not to say she isn’t a three-time National Champion.
Julie Myers won her title as a player during her grad student year in 1991, before joining the coaching staff as an assistant to win her second in 1993. She would take over as the head of the Cavaliers three seasons later to begin her current reign. With the victory in 2004, Myers became the first woman to win a NCAA National Championship as both a player and a coach. Following Jane Miller’s two national titles, Myers became the second coach in program history to win a championship.
Kelly Amonte Hiller
Head Coach: Northwestern
First Championship: 2005
Next Championships: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012
When former-college lacrosse star Kelly Amonte Hiller took over as head coach of Northwestern she had no head coaching experience and the program was rolling backwards. Ready to make the commitment to elevating women’s lacrosse to varsity status, the Northwestern hired Amonte Hiller and tasked her with the rebuild. It only took three seasons and the Wildcats were 15-3 and in the NCAA Quarterfinals. A year later, they were the 2005 National Champions. Then they couldn’t be stopped. From 2005 to 2012 the Northwestern women claimed every title except 2010 when they lost to Maryland in the finals.
A 2012 inductee into the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Kelly Amonte Hiller will forever be etched into the record books as a player and coach. A two-time NCAA National Player of the Year of Maryland, she won her first two National Championships the same years in 1995 and 1996. A still growing career that has claimed rights as a nine-time NCAA champion, record-holder for NCAA Tournament wins (42) and all-time winning percentage (.840) is going to be hard to top.
Head Coach: Maryland
First Championship: 2010
Next Championships: 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019
From the time Cathy Reese got the job to replace Cindy Timchal at the head of Maryland, she never missed the NCAA Tournament until COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 season. For 13-straight seasons Reese booked the Terrapins’ ticket to the big dance, securing the trophy at the end of five of those runs. Although she was a surprise hire at the time, Reese was a four-time National Champion while playing under Timchal at Maryland from 1994-98. She would stick around upon graduation to join the coaching staff, winning another three-straight championships. From there, she took on the lead role at Denver, returning back to Maryland in 2007 after three seasons.
A seven-time NCAA National Champion, four-time IWLCA National Coach of the Year and US Lacrosse Hall of Famer, Cathy Reese can call herself one of the most decorated individuals in lacrosse. Reese has driven the Terps to a total of five National Championships, 11 Final Fours and 20 Conference Championships in her 14 years leading the programs. Reaching 301 wins in 2019, Reese was the fastest women’s lacrosse coach to reach 200, 250 and 300 wins.
Head Coach: North Carolina
First Championship: 2013
Northwestern wasn’t sharing any of the fun until Jenny Levy and the Tarheels cracked the code in 2013. With no head coaching experience, North Carolina selected Levy to be the first head coach of North Carolina women’s lacrosse. That was 25 years ago and Levy has since been named National Coach of the Year twice and amassed 351 wins, third highest in the NCAA, including a perfect 7-0 start to 2020.
A two-time NCAA National Champion, Levy earned her first title in 1991 as a attacker with Virginia, the same year her husband, Dan Levy, won the men’s championship playing for North Carolina. She would return again to the main stage with the program she created after 18 years of building. Practically cruising their way through the 2013 postseason, the Tarheels were finally challenged with No.1 seed Maryland in the finale. In an instant classic, it took three overtimes to decide the winner and it was UNC’s Sammy Jo Tracy burying the game-winner to give Jenny Levy her first ring as a coach.
Head Coach: James Madison
First Championship: 2018
From player to coach, Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe is the embodiment of James Madison lacrosse through and through. A 1997 graduate of the program, Klaes-Bawcombe captained the 1997 CAA Tournament-winning team and helped steer the Dukes to two NCAA Tournament appearances. As a senior, Klaes-Bawcombe set the school record for career assists (71), points in a season points (71) and tied the JMU season record for game-winning goals (4), helping earn her First Team All-America recognition.
Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe transitioned quickly into a coaching role at JMU before a three-year stint as an assistant at Hofstra. In 2002, she took over as head coach at Hofstra, guiding the Pride through the 2016 season, ending her stint by losing to the Dukes in the conference finals. The following spring, Klaes-Bawcombe would be back at her alma mater and already making a scratch at the 2017 NCAA Tournament Second Round. Like most of the great coaches on this list, it didn’t take her long to claim her trophy and she made it happen the following season, beating Boston College, 16-15, for the program’s first-ever championship. With the victory came her naming as the IWLCA Division I National Coach of the Year in 2018 and forever etching her into the history books.