A winner of four of the last seven NCAA Division I women's lacrosse championships, Alexis Venechanos, has been named as the new head coach of the University of Massachusetts women's lacrosse program, Director of Athletics John McCutcheon announced on August, 24, 2006. Venechanos comes to UMass after serving as the first assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Northwestern University for the last three seasons. The Wildcats captured their second consecutive national championship this past spring. Venechanos was an All-America goalie at the University of Maryland, where she captured two national championships in 2000 and 2001.
A new era of women's lacrosse began in 2006 with the hiring of Alexis Venechanos. A four-time NCAA Division I Champion, Venechanos concluded her fourth season in 2010 with the Minutewomen after being hired in August 2006.
In just three seasons, Venechanos accomplished something which had not been done in 25 years - take UMass back to the NCAA Tournament. In 2010, the Minutewomen nearly made the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season, but fell at Stanford in the NCAA Play-In Game. All told, in her first four years on the job, Venechanos has guided UMass to the NCAA Tournament, a pair of Atlantic 10 Championship Tournament Titles (2009, 2010), an Atlantic 10 Regular-Season Title (2009) and three appearances in the A-10 Tournament Championship Game.
Since joining the UMass women's lacrosse team, Venechanos has an overall record of 36-38, an Atlantic 10 Regular Season record of 18-10, and an A-10 Tournament record of 5-1.
This past season, Venechanos guided UMass to its second straight A-10 Tournament Title and double-digit wins for the second year. Jackie Lyons earned 2010 All-America, All-Region, and All-Conference honors while also being named the league's Offensive Player of the Year (the first in program history) and the league's Tournament MVP. Along with Lyons, Merritt Cosgrove earned All-Region honors and Academic All-Conference honors while three others also earned all-conference distinction.
The 2009 season was one for the record books as UMass won the Atlantic 10 Regular-Season Title, the Atlantic 10 Tournament Title, and earned a berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Minutewomen won 11 games - the most since 2003 - including eight of its last nine games en route to the NCAA berth. UMass set new school records for goals scored (210) and draw controls (266), while the 276 points for the season were the second most in school history.
The scene for 2009 was set a year earlier when Venechanos guided the Minutewomen to the 2008 Atlantic 10 Championship Game after a late-season rally put UMass into the league tournament. A dramatic overtime upset of No. 1 Richmond in the tournament semifinals had UMass on the doorstep of the NCAA Tournament, but the Minutewomen ran out of steam ending the season with a 7-11 overall record and a 4-3 mark in A-10 play. Four Minutewomen were named to the A-10 All-Conference Second Team, while two others were named to the All-Rookie Team.
In her first season with UMass (2007), the Minutewomen posted an 8-9 overall record and a 3-4 mark in the Atlantic 10. Despite the record, Venechanos immediately showed fans a glimpse of what the team could accomplish early with a 4-2 start, a win at No. 16 Boston University, and a Top 20 ranking in the second-week of March. With eight starters returning including four of the team's top five scorers, the foundation set in 2007 paid dividends in 2008.
Venechanos came to UMass after serving as the first assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Northwestern University for the last three seasons. The Wildcats captured their second consecutive national championship this past spring. Venechanos was an All-America goalie at the University of Maryland, where she captured two national championships in 2000 and 2001.
"We are extremely pleased to have Alexis as part of the UMass Athletics family," said Director of Athletics John McCutcheon. "Her energy and experience is a tremendous asset to our women's lacrosse program."
Over her three years at Northwestern, the Wildcats posted an amazing 56-4 record, winning 93 percent of their games, including a 41-1 record in the last two years. The Wildcats went 20-1 this past season to earn their second straight national title in addition to capturing the American Lacrosse Conference championship for the third year in a row. In 2005, Northwestern posted a perfect 21-0 record on its way to the first national championship the in program's history. In her first year at NU, the team posted a 15-3 record and reached the NCAA Quarterfinals.
"I am extremely honored to be a part of University of Massachusetts family," said Venechanos." The support and vision of the Athletic Department, along with the rich tradition makes it a very special place to be involved with. My goal as a head coach and that of our coaching staff and team is to bring UMass women's lacrosse back to the national prominence."
As the recruiting coordinator and top assistant at Northwestern, Venechanos administered and organized all aspects of recruiting. She was responsible for bringing in many of the Wildcats players including several from the New England area. On the field she coached the defense which has among the nation's best under her direction. This past season, Northwestern led the nation in scoring margin and was in the top five in scoring defense. Venechanos mentored freshman Morgan Lathrop in the nets to one of the nation's top goals against averages. In the perfect season of 2005, Venechanos tutored NU goalkeeper Ashley Gersuk as she posted the nation's best goals-against average and earned ALC Goalie of the Year. The Wildcats had the top team scoring defense that season in addition to the top scoring offense and best scoring margin in the nation.
"Alexis did a tremendous job for us at Northwestern," said Northwestern Head Coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller, the 2005 national coach of the year. "She was instrumental in our winning two national championships. Alexis is a great recruiter. On the field, she developed our goalkeepers. She was in charge of the defense and really molded a young team together by the time we reached the final four this year."
In 2004, Venechanos' first on the staff, the Wildcats finished with a 15-3 record overall, including a 13-game winning streak during the regular season; ranked as high as sixth in the IWLCA national coaches poll; and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the program was restored to varsity status in 2002. In addition, NU won a share of the ALC title with a 5-1 mark, with the only loss coming in overtime to co-champion Vanderbilt.
In addition to her coaching duties at Northwestern, she served as the co-director of Amonte Sports Camps from 2003-06. She has also been the club coach and co-director of the Wildcat Elite Club team for high school players.
Venechanos went to Northwestern from the winningest women's lacrosse program of all-time -- the University at Maryland, where she graduated in 2003 after a standout career in goal for the Terrapins. In her four years with Maryland, the Terps went 73-15, an 83 percent win mark. She was part of two national championship teams in College Park, backstopping the 2001 team that went 23-0. She was the back-up goalie on the 2000 squad as a freshman. She was the starting goalie of three ACC championship teams in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
"Alexis is a winner," said former Maryland head coach Cindy Timchal, who recent took over the women's lacrosse program at the United State Naval Academy. "I think it is awesome that she is getting this opportunity at UMass. From winning titles at Maryland to being a part of the best college team in the nation for two years at Northwestern, Alexis has learned what it means to be the best. I am so excited for her that she is working to take the UMass program back to where it should be, a Division I contender, like the men's lacrosse program."
As a senior captain in 2003, Venechanos was the recipient of the Ensign C. Markland Kelly Award, given to the nation's top goalkeeper. She was also a consensus first-team All-American as well as first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and ACC Tournament MVP. Despite playing the second half of the season on a torn ACL, Venechanos posted 164 saves versus 121 goals allowed and was in the top 10 nationally in both save percentage (.575) and goals-against average (6.62).
The 29-year old Venechanos (born Feb. 23, 1981) is a native of Yorktown, New York where she was a three-sport athlete at Yorktown High School in lacrosse, basketball and soccer.
Last updated: June 3, 2010