First-year program NYIT features 14 players from Dowling, a school 34 miles east that shut down in May.

Ex-Dowling Players Sticking Together at NYIT

Less than one week after Dowling College announced its closure May 31 due to financial struggles, the former Golden Lions women’s lacrosse team shifted from hitting the panic button to opening a new door and continuing to make history at NYIT.

“They literally told us at 5 o’clock one day that it was closing at 5 o’clock the next day,” said former Dowling athletic director Melody Cope, who is now the associate athletic director at St. Joseph’s Long Island. “Everyone knew that New York Tech had been thinking about adding lacrosse, and so the second that Dowling was closing, the conversations started. ‘Is this something that you want to do, and if so, would you be interested in taking a look at our coach?’”

NYIT contacted Dowling coach Kerri Handras that day to gauge her interest, a dialogue that prompted athletic director Duane Bailey, also a US Lacrosse board member, to approach president Edward Guiliano about adding women’s lacrosse for the 2016-17 season — and not just any team, but one coming off of its first-ever NCAA tournament victory.

NYIT’s original five-year plan plotted to add women’s lacrosse no earlier than 2020. But within 48 hours of his conversation with Guiliano, Bailey drafted a proposal and received the green light to hire Handras, which was announced on June 6 and effective June 13. NYIT also would offer scholarships to as many Dowling players who wanted to make the 34-mile trip west with her.

“They literally told us at 5 o’clock one day that it was closing at 5 o’clock the next day." - Former Dowling athletic director Melody Cope.

Fourteen players — including top scorer Katie Meinecke and 10 other players who started games for Dowling during its 17-4 campaign — followed Handras. So did two previously signed recruits.

“We wanted to stick together because we’ve built this from the ground up and we went so far last year,” said senior goalie and captain Lauren Young, who earned first team all-conference honors in 2016. “For us to really finish it out together would be the best thing. When Coach contacted us, we all basically jumped on it.”

Upon being hired, Handras invited her Dowling team to campus to meet with Bailey, administrators and counselors to get a better understanding of the school and look into potential new majors, since NYIT didn’t offer education like Dowling.

However, she still encouraged her players to look elsewhere if they desired. Handras, who also coached soccer at Dowling, received many emails from interested coaches — including East Coast Conference rivals — joking her phone nearly broke.

“I said, ‘Don’t sell yourselves short. You are worth something to somebody,’” Handras said. “[But] they were waiting on me and saying, ‘If this is what’s going to happen, we want to be there and be a part of it.’”

NYIT invested $475,000 in its women’s lacrosse program, with approximately $320,000 allotted from its scholarship pool. The Bears will compete in the ECC, the same conference Dowling played in. With that built-in chemistry and familiarity, Bailey expects NYIT to be competitive immediately.

“We’re going to practice like we did over there — just with a new name,” Handras said. “New name, new field. Same rules, same expectations.”

Nike/US Lacrosse Rankings
Division I Men | Division I Women
Division II Men | Division II Women
Division III Men | Division III Women

Nike/US Lacrosse Division II Women's Preseason Top 20

1. Florida Southern

The weight of expectations will be new for the surprise NCAA champion, but almost everybody is back for coach Kara Reber’s team.

2. Adelphi

Don’t think the Panthers aren’t looking forward to their Feb. 21 date against the Mocs in Florida.

3. LIU Post

With a star goalie in Olivia Kirk, the Pioneers can rebuild from the back as they hope to consolidate their power in the ECC after longtime rival Dowling closed its doors after last spring.

4. Lindenwood

The Lions were shaping up to be the non-traditional team to break through the Long Island dominance of the NCAA championship, but the Sunshine State Mocs beat them out. They look to be in the mix again this spring.

5. Le Moyne

After an 82-point freshman season, Bryana Fazio looks poised to break out as the Dolphins’ next star.

6. Rollins

Florida Southern got the better of them three times in 2016 – the Tars went 15-1 against everyone besides the NCAA champions.


See feature above.

8. Queens (N.C.)

Can new head coach Clare Gaeng, a former assistant for the Royals who recently was head coach at Lenoir-Rhyne, keep the program heading in a positive direction?

9. Grand Valley State

Having tasted the NCAA tournament for the first time in 2016, the Lakers will be hungry for more.

10. Mercyhurst

Sophomore Kristin Anderson was a breakout star last spring, but the Lakers will once again be replacing heavy graduation losses.


Florida Southern and midfielder Emily Santoli (above) take the top spot in the Division II rankings.

11. West Chester

After falling one goal short of a trip to the NCAA semifinals, the Rams will look to Ashley Pyle to lead the way as they hope to win their region for the first time since 2012.

12. Indiana (Pa.)

The core of a strong defense returns, but the loss of feeder Amy Weinberg (67 assists) will be tough to remedy.

13. Bentley

With three 30-goal scorers graduated, Hannah Lindgren (43 goals, 22 assists) will be even more central to her team’s success. The back end looks very solid, with six regular contributors returning.

14. Limestone

An unbeaten record in Conference Carolinas play wasn’t enough for an NCAA bid for the Saints last spring. Non-conference matchups against Lindenwood, Florida Southern, and Queens may loom large for their tourney hopes in 2017.

15. Lock Haven

Second-year head coach Lindsay Reese should be able to rely on the 1-2 punch of Rachel Engler (61 goals) and Shannon Bissnette (46 assists) to keep her team in contention.

16. Regis (Colo.)

With two one-goal losses a year ago, the Rangers have made it clear that they intend to challenge Lindenwood for the title of best in the west.

17. Stonehill

A strong defensive core will be the key for the Skyhawks, who have to overcome some losses on offense.

18. Pace

In just their third year, the Setters look like they could make noise in the opened-up North Region.

19. Southern New Hampshire

With only two players gone from last year, the Penmen return plenty of firepower, headlined by 80-point returnees Kristin Wilder and Alexa Bedell.

20. Saint Anselm

Six of the Hawks’ eight losses last year came against ranked foes, but the Northeast-10 won’t be any more forgiving in coach Meghan Smith’s second season at the helm.

This article appears in the February NCAA preview edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

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