New coach looks to make her mark with young lax players

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As far as lacrosse resumés go, Katie McConnell’s is rather impressive.

During her playing days at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, McConnell was part of a Bald Eagles program that went to three straight NCAA tournaments, including the 2009 Division II National Championship Game. When her playing career came to an end, McConnell quickly jumped into a coaching career, enjoying a great deal of success in her new career as well.

McConnell joined the Lock Haven coaching staff in 2013, spending three seasons as an assistant during which time the Eagles compiled a 54-7 record while making back-to-back appearances in the Division II National Championship game in 2014 and 2015.

But after McConnell spent last season as an assistant coach at Coastal Carolina — following her former Lack Haven head coach, Kristen Selvage, to the North Carolina school — the chance to run her own program came around and McConnell pounced on the opportunity.

“I was fortunate to go with my head coach to Coastal,” McConnell said. “I played for her and then I worked for her and then she moved on to Coastal, so that was where I went. But also I wanted to come home. I’m from South Jersey so it’s only like an hour and a half from here. And I just saw the potential of the program here at Manhattan and I thought this would be a great fit for me. 

“I’m just so happy that I made this move and it’s been great.”

McConnell is now in charge of a 28-member roster that includes just one senior and a wide array of freshmen and sophomores. In her first foray as a head coach, McConnell is tasked with laying the foundation for success in Riverdale as she envisions the successes she enjoyed at Lock Haven for her Jaspers program going forward.

“The skill is there and the heart is there,” said McConnell, who was hired by Manhattan last August. “We just say it’s like a puzzle and we just got to put this puzzle together. But we’re in a hotbed for women’s lacrosse and we’re in the greatest city in the world, so there’s no reason we can’t be successful here.”

Last Saturday was McConnell’s first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game and her first test was to face a Canisius team that not only is the defending MAAC champions, but has won the conference championship in five of the past six seasons — and is the preseason favorite to do so again this year.

Baptism by fire, anyone?

“It was definitely tough facing them first, but I think it’s good to see the level of competition in the MAAC,” McConnell said after Canisius topped the Jaspers, 15-5, to drop Manhattan to 2-5 on the season. “Canisius is an awesome team, so I think for us to start with them is really great, and I think we can only get better from here.”

It may take more than her first season to build the Manhattan program in her vision, but McConnell said her goal is to turn the Jaspers lacrosse program into one of the premier outfits in the MAAC. There already are building blocks in place to do just that, such as sophomore Molly Fitzpatrick, who had three of Manhattan’s five goals in the loss to Canisius last Saturday.

“Absolutely, we see the potential here,” McConnell said. “We’re fortunate enough to be where we’re at right now. Losing Darby (Nolan, the lone senior) will be really challenging, but if we can figure out this puzzle this year, then in the next couple of years, we’re in a good spot.”

McConnell and assistant coach Emily Considine, a former star at Hofstra in her playing days, will recruit the hotbed areas of Long Island and New Jersey as she builds the Manhattan program in her image. 

“We just want to make sure we continue to work hard, and our goal is to make a name for ourselves in the MAAC,” McConnell said. “I love being here. I could not be more excited about this opportunity, and I could not be more proud to the head coach of this group of girls.”

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