February 11, 2011

Sherry: Cal 'Righted the Wrong,' But Damage Is Done

by Clare Lochary | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

While happy for her current players, Cal women's lacrosse coach Theresa Sherry could not help but wonder what could have been after three players transferred and an entire recruiting class was released of verbal commitments in the wake of the university's now-overturned decision to ax the program.

  © Verdict Photography

After four months of uncertainty, the Cal women's lacrosse team got unexpected good news Friday. The team's status as a varsity program has been reinstated for the foreseeable future, reversing the university's Sept. 28, 2010, decision to terminate the program's intercollegiate play at the end of the 2011 season.

"I'm so happy for my team. I think the girls that left are still in a really good situation. But for the girls who stayed, it was getting harder and harder for them to picture themselves leaving next year, but also harder and harder for them to picture themselves not playing lacrosse, so it kind of solved that dilemma," said Bears head coach Theresa Sherry. "I'm glad they righted the wrong."

Women's lacrosse was one of five sports, along with women's gymnastics, men's rugby, baseball and men's gymnastics, that were cut from the varsity roster for financial reasons. In the four months since the original announcement, all five programs have worked furiously to raise money to ensure their financial stability. Thanks to donors that stepped forward to contribute to the lacrosse team, plus additional support from Cal's prestigious and well-funded rugby program, the team was able to meet the university's requirements. Over $8 million was pledged to support rugby, lacrosse and women's gymnastics collectively.

"It's kind of a 10-year plan that they have us on. We have to get in all the money that was pledged, and over the next 10 years, the team has to raise $50,000 per year, which we were doing anyway," Sherry said.

The news that the program would survive arrived on the day of the lacrosse team's season and home opener against Notre Dame at Witter Rugby Field (7 p.m. Pacific).

"We feel great. I woke up this morning excited about our game, and having the news and things being the way that it should be is great," said senior goalie and team captain Allie Shropshire.

"It's really exciting, but our focus is very, very much on the game today. It couldn't be a better pump-up for this day, though. I've already talked to a couple of the freshmen, and they're so excited with the opportunity to stay here."

Excitement about the program's future was tempered, however, by the difficulties the team has faced in the short term. Three players transferred to other programs, including the Bears' top recruit, California native Lauren Goerz, who is now at Virginia. Sherry also released this year's recruiting class from their verbal commitments. She said she worries that the past year's uncertainties will cast a cloud over the program.

"My feeling is that it was very, very unfortunate that they made the decision they made in September and a lot of damange has been done," Sherry said. "We may be in a tougher situation than we were when I started at Cal."

Still, the news gave an added boost to Friday's matchup with Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish, ranked No. 10 in Lacrosse Magazine's preseason poll, had to rally to defeat the Bears last season, winning 14-12 in double overtime, and the Cal players are eager for a rematch.

"Regardless of what the decision was, we'd have a lot of motivation anyway. We wanted to make this season special, and we still have that goal," Sherry said.

Shropshire said the more optimistic outlook for the program would allow the team, which includes 18 underclassmen, to concentrate more fully on enjoying the game itself, without having to worry about their future prospects.

"They get to let go of so much baggage that just got taken off their shoulders today. It's only going to make people play better," Shropshire said. "I was watching some game film this morning and just got way too excited. I've just got to find ways to keep my mind calm and my blood pressure low."

The game will be live-tweeted at http://twitter.com/calwlacrosse.

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