The sport of lacrosse continues to explode in Berkshire County as Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts prepares to add a women's lacrosse team to its athletic programs for the 2014-2015 school year.
Athletic Director Scott Nichols confirmed Wednesday evening that the school will add the sport for the spring of 2015.
MCLA is a member of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference in its other sports and will be the eighth and final school to add women's lacrosse in the conference. Women's lacrosse will be the seventh women's sport at MCLA.
"At this point, we are fully committed to introducing women's lacrosse to our athletic programs in [2014-2015]," Nichols said.
MCLA has been looking to add a women's sport for the past several seasons after added men's tennis in 2011. Nichols said Title IX was one reason for adding a women's sport. The addition of the sport will bring the total number of women's sports offered at MCLA to seven, the school offers six men's sports.
"We had explored a number of sports in the past few years," Nichols said. "You have to look at what your recruiting base is going to be. It's a natural addition for us, both because our conference has it and it's growing in the Berkshires. Even though it's a new sport, it's a growing sport and will continue to grow in Berkshire County."
Berkshire County high schools made lacrosse a varsity sport before the spring 2012 season. Five high schools -- including Mount Greylock and Hoosac Valley -- offered the sport in 2013 and Monument Mountain has been in talks to add the sport soon.
MCLA offered it as an intramural sport this past school year and had about 14 players come out to work with Kaylyn Smith, who will be the team's head coach on an interim basis. The program will upgrade to club status for the 2013-2014 year and begin a full varsity schedule the following spring.
Smith has been tabbed as the interim head coach for the program and has been the assistant to the athletic director at MCLA since the fall of 2012.
"I think this is a great move," Smith said. "Not just for MCLA, but for Berkshire County, as well. Women's lacrosse is a quickly growing sport throughout the area. This will help spread the sport even more.
"Women's lacrosse is growing not just in the county, but all throughout the region. MCLA is keeping up with the trends and the times."
The NCAA requires a sport to have one full recruiting season before officially becoming a varsity sport. Smith has already begun the recruiting process. She played lacrosse in high school and played both field hockey and basketball at Western New England College. She graduated in 2010 and completed her masters from Springfield College in 2012. This will be her first head coaching job.
"I'm young, so I'm in for quite a ride," said the 25-year-old Smith. "I'm going to lean on my connections from college and coaches in the area to help start the program. I've attended conferences and showcases to both help me become a better coach and start the recruiting process."
Smith hopes to schedule four to five scrimmages this coming spring. The team will play its home games on the Ron Shewcraft turf field.
"My responsibility with the program is recruiting and getting the word out that MCLA will be adding women's lacrosse," Smith said. "It's something I'm taking serious and am excited about."
Smith has already begun to use her connections across the region to help develop a non-conference schedule as well as seek advice for getting the program off the ground.
"Women's lacrosse is one of the biggest growing sports in both the country and Berkshire County," Nichols said. "Plus, New York has strong programs, so it seemed like a solid recruiting base. It was just the right fit for us, at this point."