Taryn VanThof Ready for More Firsts at Arizona State

PHOTO BY MATT PENDLETON


Taryn VanThof knew the Arizona State job would be sought after when head coach Tim McCormack departed for Johns Hopkins in June. As a Pac-12 school, Arizona State had the resources — facilities, academic advisors and a Power 5 football program — to give student-athletes a memorable collegiate experience. The warm winters didn’t hurt.

But when she got to campus, she noticed something she felt was even more important: Longevity. Other members of the athletics department had been there for decades, a rarity in an industry reckoning with high turnover.

“The people [blew me away],” VanThof said. “So many people have been there for so long that you know it’s an awesome place.”

Arizona isn’t a lacrosse hotbed, and it’s a relatively new sport at Arizona State. The Sun Devils played their first season in Division I in 2018. But VanThof is used to that. She spent six seasons at Florida under Mandee O’Leary, who turned the Gators into an immediate winner and helped spearhead the sport’s growth in the Sunshine State.

“I have an understanding of what it’s like to build an alumni network in a region that is not prominent in terms of lacrosse, like Florida and Arizona,” VanThof said. “You are really building a community.”

VanThof still has O’Leary’s ear, and she’s using parts of her mentor’s blueprint to grow the game on and off campus in Arizona.

“You build excitement around it, whether that is starting locally with camps and clinics and then expanding to the west coast and east coast,” VanThof said. “We have the athletes on our roster and alums who want to be a part of it.”







The foundation is there. The Sun Devils finished runners-up in the 2022 Pac-12 championship after upsetting USC in the semifinals. Some thought they should have made the NCAA tournament. VanThof likes that the players know what success feels like but are still hungry for more.

“They’ve got a taste of it this past year,” VanThof said. “I think we build on it. They were in the championship game, but we want to be on the other side of it. There are a lot of firsts left to hit. That’s exciting.”

Besides a Pac-12 title, VanThof has her sights set on NCAA wins and helping a player become the program’s first Tewaaraton finalist. When it comes to conference play, one of the league’s stalwarts, USC, is on its way out. The Trojans announced their move to the Big Ten. But VanThof won’t shy away from scheduling what could have been a budding Pac-12 rival.

“It’s exciting for us in terms of getting to play an opposing conference on the west coast,” she said. “It’s a local game but against an out-of-conference rival.”

VanThof is more focused on the Sun Devils than she is on conference realignment, though. She’s busy putting together a staff with the same passion for growing the game and giving student-athletes a holistic experience as she is. That isn’t a problem for the student-athletes, who she’s gotten a chance to meet over Zoom.

“Their excitement is contagious,” VanThof said.

But VanThof knows it’s more than a game. She wants to be there for her student-athletes on and off the field. She plans to implement “Forks Up 15” — periodic, quick discussions about topics other than lacrosse.

“When you look at it, athlete development is at the very forefront, and that is as a person, student and student-athlete,” VanThorf said. “We want to make sure we are maintaining those relationships but doing it while we are doing the game we love.”

VanThof is also set to build relationships on the recruiting trail, where she’s looking for an athlete who is physically tough and mentally sharp.

“We want to make sure we are a presence athletically on the field and couple that with our lacrosse IQ and make a really strong force and presence on the field,” VanThof said.

And she wants people who want to build a legacy rather than be a part of an established one.

“If we continue to surround ourselves [with the right people] and build the program, we can be a national contender,” VanThof said. “I am excited for that. The resources, the possibilities — it’s doable.”

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