The Urbana University Department of Athletics announced it will add two sports with the revival of women’s lacrosse and the addition of women’s water polo. Both sports will begin competition in 2020-21.
UU Blue Knights Athletics will expand to 23 combined NCAA Division II varsity and club sports, which also includes the additions of acrobatics & tumbling, men’s wrestling and men’s volleyball in the past two years. UU will now feature 12 total women’s varsity and club programs.
The Blue Knights will compete among six women’s lacrosse teams in the Mountain East Conference, where it finished sixth in 2015 and fifth in 2016. UU discontinued women’s lacrosse in 2016 after going 10-73 in six seasons of NCAA D-II competition.
“I am excited to bring women’s lacrosse back to Urbana University,” Executive Vice President/CEO Dr. Christopher Washington said. “My enthusiasm is fueled by UU alumni who played lacrosse and went on to become intercollegiate coaches at other universities. I expect that women’s lacrosse will attract scholar-athletes, promote healthy lifestyles, foster growth in leadership and teamwork skills and encourage the pursuit of excellence that challenges them to reach their full potential.”
“The Mountain East Conference is very pleased to see Urbana University bring women’s lacrosse back to its sports offerings,” MEC Commissioner Reid Amos mentioned. “This addition by Urbana will increase opportunities for young women while supporting the continuing growth and development of women’s lacrosse in the Mountain East.”
UU women’s water polo will be established as a Division II independent member of the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA). The CWPA is comprised of both varsity and collegiate club programs which compete for a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) or National Collegiate Club (NCCC) Championship. Women’s water polo was recognized in 2000 as an Olympic Sport.
UU is the 11th Division II school to add varsity women’s water polo, joining regional opponents Gannon, Mercyhurst and Salem. Neighboring Wittenberg University started its Division III program two years ago.
“Women’s water polo is growing quickly and Urbana is proud to add the sport to our athletic programs,” Washington said. “Water polo is one of the most physically demanding team sports, requiring players to swim and tread water the entire time without touching the bottom of the pool. I look forward to onboarding a new coach to lead our team.”
CWPA Commissioner Dan Sharadin believes UU will be the first of several Division II schools in the Midwest to add water polo in the next few years.
The Urbana University administration has begun the search for a new head coach in each sport.
“Urbana University has carved out a niche of offering unique sport offerings that cater to an under-represented population,” Executive Director of Athletics Larry Cox said. “So, we’re very proud to announce the addition of women’s water polo and women’s lacrosse. They will add tremendous value to our current sport offerings, which do an excellent job of representing the university in competition, in the classroom and out in the community.”