Kelly Amonte Hiller: Women’s lacrosse conference coming to Big Ten in 2015

Ava Wallace, Assistant Sports Editor

Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said today that a Big Ten women’s lacrosse conference will debut in the 2014-15 season.

Northwestern, Ohio State and Penn State will play one last season in the American Lacrosse Conference before moving to the Big Ten conference. Michigan, which will debut its women’s lacrosse program next year, will also play in the ALC for the 2013-14 season and then move to the Big Ten, Amonte Hiller said.

“It’s very, very exciting for us,” Amonte Hiller said. “And we’ve garnered a lot of attention from the Big Ten, just with our success and being in Chicago … and I think having a conference now just elevates our sport to a whole other level.”

The addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten in 2015 means at least six teams already in the conference will have a women’s lacrosse program. Because six teams will compete in the sport, women’s lacrosse is eligible to receive sponsorship from the conference.

A Big Ten lacrosse conference also brings together the country’s two biggest women’s lacrosse powerhouses: NU and Maryland.

“It just makes our conference that much more competitive, and I think that we should have the most competitive conference in the country,” Amonte Hiller said, noting NU will no longer face ALC rival Florida during the regular season.

Amonte Hiller said she hopes other Big Ten schools will introduce women’s lacrosse programs in the future to flesh out the conference. Benefits of having the conference also include an added level of local support — Big Ten headquarters is just outside of Chicago — as well as extra media attention.

Amonte Hiller, who played at Maryland, also recruits heavily from the East Coast. She hopes the draw of being able to play in the Big Ten will pull more Midwest players to NU’s team as well.

Ultimately, Amonte Hiller said she is excited for what the conference means for the expansion of the sport. Chatter surrounding a Big Ten women’s lacrosse conference picked up in the postseason, when the newly expanded 26-team NCAA tournament also loomed.

“For us, it’s a great thing,” Amonte Hiller said. “For our sport, it’s a whole other great thing, and I don’t think people really realize it yet. I think we realize it because we’ve been an outlier, we’ve been building this outside of the East Coast, and I think that this is a big step for the sport of lacrosse, to have sanctioned conferences … this is a big step for the sport of lacrosse.”