Former player returns to coach women’s lacrosse

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, February 21st, 2018 at 7:12 PM

Some hope to never return to the school they graduated from.

Some make it a point to return every so often for alumni events.

Others dream of spending the rest of their lives working at their alma mater.

On Jan. 23, Jenny Wirth was named the interim head coach of Edinboro’s women’s lacrosse team. Just four years ago, in 2014, she scored 24 goals as a senior for the Fighting Scots on their way to a 7-9 overall record, the program’s most successful season to date.

Over her four years as a student at Edinboro, she improved with additional playing time, becoming the most accurate shooter on the team, recording 55 shots on goal with a .917 shots-on-goal percentage, both top marks on the team that year.

Now she’s back and looking to help lacrosse achieve its first real taste of success. Since the program’s first season in 2009, the Fighting Scots have never gone over .500, with the team coming off an abysmal 2017 campaign that saw them finish with a 2-15 overall record after losing all of their conference games.

Wirth, a senior during that top season, will have to pick up the pieces and attempt to turn the program around after a low point.

“I think we have a lot of potential to get more wins on the board than we did last year,” Wirth said. “You know, every day we go to play a game, it could be any team that wins. So I think that’s really important to kind of keep in mind every time we go to play a game.”

Further compounding the pressure of her new position is that she was hired less than a month before the women’s lacrosse team opens its season at home against Wheeling Jesuit University on Feb. 22.

Caitlin Formato, the second head coach in the program’s history, left less than a week earlier to take an assistant coaching position with the Canisius College Golden Griffins.

“It was obviously a very fast process,” Wirth said of her hiring. “I think I found out about it, and the next week I was being interviewed for it, and the week after that I moved here.”

In a press release announcing her hiring, Director of Athletics Bruce Baumgartner said that he was happy to have Wirth back at Edinboro.

“This all transpired quickly and we were fortunate that a candidate of her quality was available. With the students returning to campus, it was important that there was a seamless transition for the members of our lacrosse team,” Baumgartner said.

Wirth explained how she was fortunate to be recommended for the position by administrators at other schools as well as Formato herself.

“You know, it was nice to see that people thought I should be here,” she said.

She hopes to stay at Edinboro for a long time, and she believes this season will be her opportunity to make an impression, even with the limited opportunity to train with the team.

Still, in her abbreviated timeline, she hasn’t been afraid to make some changes to the program. Wirth, who was recognized all four years for her excellent grades as a student and who then graduated magna cum laude, checks in on her players’ grades to make sure they don’t fall behind.

She said that she and her assistant coach, LeighAnn Stauffer, meet with all of the team’s freshmen and anyone with a sub-3.0 GPA to help them maintain strong grades. If they start falling behind, she helps connect them with resources on campus that can help them out.

“[College] is a process,” Wirth explained. “A lot of kids come from high school and they may have never had to study, or they might get here and it’s really easy for them, but being successful through all four years takes a support system. So I want to be that for them academically.”

In between her tenures at Edinboro, she coached the Lanco Elite Lacrosse Club and Xtreme Lacrosse Club in Lancaster, along with the Pittsburgh Premier Lacrosse Club. She was also the head junior varsity girl’s lacrosse coach at Peter’s Township High School before serving as an assistant coach at Shippensburg University last year.

Also in that time, Wirth — who graduated from Edinboro with a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education, with an emphasis on human performance — was a sports performance coach and was a strength and conditioning intern at the University of Pittsburgh.

She is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, a USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach, and a certified CrossFit Level 1 trainer.

She said that she wakes up at 5 a.m. every day to start her own daily workout routine.

“I think it’s important to have that routine,” she said. “I liked to have that when I was here as an athlete, so I try to continue that.”

Even with most of last year’s core players having graduated and over half of the current roster consisting of freshmen, Wirth feels confident in the group of women she inherited.

“I knew that the freshman class that coach Formato had brought in was a pretty good class,” Wirth said. “So it was great to come into that knowing that this group had a lot of potential for this upcoming season, and I think we’ve been growing as a team throughout these first two weeks I’ve really been with them.”

Regardless of how the season shakes out, Wirth is glad to have finally made it back to the school she once called home.

“[When] I first got into collegiate coaching, I knew that Edinboro was an end goal for me. So to be back — even in an interim position — is a great opportunity.”

Christopher Rosato Jr. can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: lacrosse

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