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Women’s Varsity Lacrosse Coming to URI

Notre Dame assistant coach Jenna Slowey (right) has been named the first head coach in Rhode Island women’s lacrosse history.

URI will welcome its newest varsity team, women’s lacrosse, beginning in the 2025 season.

The URI Department of Athletics announced in late 2021, just ahead of this year’s 50th anniversary of Title IX, that it will add women’s lacrosse as a varsity program. In July, Jenna Slowey was tapped as the program’s first head coach.

Slowey comes to URI after spending the 2021–22 season as an assistant at Notre Dame, where she helped lead the Fighting Irish to an appearance in the NCAA Championship field. Before that, she spent five seasons as an assistant at Richmond, leading the Spiders to Atlantic 10 titles in 2018 and 2019, and a share of the regular-season title in 2021.

“As we build our program from the ground up, we wanted a leader with the ability to be patiently aggressive. Jenna Slowey fits the bill,” Director of Athletics Thorr Bjorn says. “Jenna brings energy and enthusiasm, which will be required to start a new Division I varsity program. Jenna is highly respected in the women’s lacrosse community, and she will work hard right away to recruit quality players who will enhance the URI Athletics culture while at the same time helping to grow the sport of women’s lacrosse in Rhode Island.”

Expected to begin competition in the Atlantic 10 during the 2024–25 season, women’s lacrosse will become the 19th varsity team and 11th women’s team at URI. It is the first varsity program to be added since women’s rowing in 1996, the year that sport became NCAA-affiliated.

The decision to add women’s lacrosse came after an internal feasibility study showed favorable economic impact along with Title IX compliance stability for the University.

“The opportunity to provide more opportunities for our student-athletes is exciting and significant for the overall growth of the University,” Bjorn says. “Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was a vital piece of law that has had a profound impact on our society. We are proud to honor the 50th anniversary of Title IX by growing women’s athletics at Rhode Island.”

According to Title IX, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education pro- gram or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

While women’s collegiate athletics is not specified in the language, it falls under the umbrella.

“It has been a tremendous pleasure to witness how dedicated our student-athletes are, not only to their sport and studies, but to the entire URI community,” says University President Marc Parlange. “I look forward to welcoming women’s lacrosse to the University. It is a growing sport on campuses across the country, and I am proud that we are adding this important program to our NCAA lineup.”

URI currently offers women’s varsity programs in basketball, cross country, rowing, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field, and volleyball.

On the men’s side, Rhode Island has baseball, basketball, cross country, foot- ball, golf, soccer, and indoor and outdoor track and field.

“With the addition of women’s lacrosse, Rhode Island will be comfortably in compliance with all standards set forth by the NCAA and Title IX,” says Bjorn. “As the profile of the University continues to shift, we had areas that needed to be addressed. With proper planning and the support of President Parlange, we worked to ensure we remain compliant moving forward through the creation of more opportunities for female student-athletes.” •

—Shane Donaldson ’99

Photos: Courtesy URI Athletics