Feb. 11, 2014
By Francis Kineavy
Over the past five years, Wildcat fans have been privy to unprecedented success. Whether it was the men's basketball run to Detroit in the 2009 Final Four, lifting the NCAA national championship trophy in women's cross country and football or winning multiple conference championships, Villanova programs have competed at the highest level. On June 25th, 2012, Villanova Athletic Director Vince Nicastro took the step to ensure the women's lacrosse program joined that exclusive club with the hiring of Julie Young as the coach of the Wildcats.
In two short seasons at the helm, Young has refurbished the state of the Wildcats program from the ground up through top recruiting classes and a knack for developing young players. "I think when I got here, we knew this was going to be a process. It wasn't going to happen overnight," reflected Young.
Step one for the new coach: establish a culture of winning. "We were really trying to get everyone on board and understand the level of commitment and attitude we needed to become a top Division I program," remarked Young.
When it came to hitting the recruiting trail, year one was a success. Young is responsible for the development of 21 of the 36 athletes that are on the 2014 roster and closed her first recruiting class with 10 signees. All of those 10 recruits were All-County selections, three were All-State honorees and one was named an All-American. They joined a crop of sophomores led by Chelsea Henderson who helped the Wildcats to their highest RPI ranking in seven years during their first season under Young.
Young is no stranger to transforming programs. Prior to her first head coaching stint at nearby Haverford College, the two-sport standout in soccer and lacrosse at Princeton made her name known as the top assistant at the University of Pennsylvania. With the Quakers, she helped guide the program to back-to-back Ivy League Championships in 2007 and 2008. The success the Quakers enjoyed lured Division III Haverford to offer Young her first head coaching job. Young, inheriting a struggling program, provided instant change from her first day on the job. The Fords were 5-11 the season prior to Young taking over and saw a five-game improvement under the first-year head coach. This immediate enhancement served as a launching pad for two consecutive conference titles and two appearances in the NCAA tournament.
After accepting the head coaching job at Villanova, Young had to pull from her experiences as both a program builder and Division I assistant coach. This helped her transition into her new role. "Because I had that experience at Haverford, it helped me when I came to Villanova," said Young. "Introducing myself to a new team, teaching them to do things a different way ... you have to get them on board."
Because the move from Haverford to Villanova didn't warrant relocating to an unfamiliar territory, Young has used her knowledge of the Main Line and Philadelphia area to her advantage.
"Knowing this area, you know who likes to come to colleges around here and where to recruit from pretty quickly," said Young. "I think it helped in that sense; just knowing the schools that kids are going to naturally look at during the recruiting process. I think being familiar with the Main Line has really helped."
With this being only her seventh year on the sidelines as a coach, Young has made a fast rise up the ultra-competitive coaching ladder. Along the way she has played for and worked alongside some of the best in the business like Princeton's Chris Sailer and Penn's Karin Brower Corbett. Playing the role of a faithful assistant at a Division I women's lacrosse program has given Young the mentorship and knowledge needed to become a head coach. Still, the transition from lieutenant to general was on-the-job training.
"As an assistant, one thing you know is you're part of a team and you have the head coach there to ask for advice," said Young. "When you take on that head coach responsibility, you feel a lot more accountable for the wins and losses."
One thing that made Young's transition smoother was her ability to lean on the lessons she learned from her mentors along the way. As a head coach, Young continues to find herself implementing the values she has cultivated from more experienced skips like her former coach at Princeton, Chris Sailer.
Preparing to get her third season at Villanova underway with everything in place, Young hopes her Wildcats are poised to take the next step and make some noise in the new BIG EAST. In particular, Young is hoping her team can come out strong and powerful from the get go. This year, Young has emphasized the need to dictate the flow of the game instead of simply adjusting to the opponent's style of play.
"I really want us to set the tone, not for us to sit in the game and figure out that we can play with a team," declared Young. "We want to control the game and set the pace."
Young and the Wildcats open their 2014 campaign at home in Villanova Stadium on Saturday, February 22nd against Michigan.