ANN ARBOR, Mich. — University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon announced Thursday the hiring of Jennifer Ulehla as the first varsity women’s lacrosse coach in school history. Ulehla will immediately begin assembling a staff and recruiting student-athletes.
The Michigan women’s lacrosse program will begin varsity competition during the 2013-14 academic year instead of 2012-13 as had been announced previously. The Wolverines will be full-fledged members of the highly competitive American Lacrosse Conference (ALC), which includes traditional Big Ten rivals Ohio State, Penn State and Northwestern, as well as Florida, Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins.
“We are excited that Jennifer will be leading our newest program,” said Brandon. “She brings a wealth of experience at both the collegiate and international levels. We look forward to having her build our women’s lacrosse program to a nationally competitive and championship level in the next few years.”
“I am very honored and grateful for the opportunity to represent such a prestigious university and traditionally strong athletic department,” said Ulehla. “I would like to thank Dave Brandon, Bitsy Ritt and the University of Michigan athletic administration for having the confidence to give me such a tremendous responsibility. They have committed the time and resources necessary to build a respected and nationally competitive lacrosse program. That is our goal. This position is an absolute dream come true for me. It is with great pride and dignity that I will work to develop a women’s lacrosse program that is worthy of the Michigan tradition.”
Ulehla (pronounced: YOU-lah-lah) gained valuable experience in the development of a new program most recently as an assistant coach for the Florida Gators from January 2008-June 2010. She played an integral role in the initial phases of building that program to a competitive Division I level, including her collaborative involvement in the recruitment of UF’s first three recruiting classes. Ulehla continued to contribute to the Gator lacrosse program during its inaugural varsity season in 2010, helping to guide the young team to an impressive 10-8 record.
Ulehla joined the U.S. National Elite Team as an assistant coach in January 2006 and worked with the program for three and a half years. As the defensive coordinator, she played a critical role in the selection, preparation and training of the most talented lacrosse players in the nation. Ulehla experienced great success as an assistant coach on the international level with the United States, winning the 2008 Prague Cup championship and achieving a gold medal at the 2009 World Cup played the following summer in the Czech Republic.
Ulehla held two prior collegiate head coaching positions in her career. She was the head coach at Temple University for two seasons (2004-06), helping the Owls share the Atlantic 10 title in 2005 and finish as a tournament runner-up in 2006. She produced three Mid-Atlantic all-regional selections and seven A10 all-conference players, including the 2005 Offensive Player of the Year.
The bulk of Ulehla’s head coaching experience occurred at James Madison University (1994-2002), where she led the program to three Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championships, six NCAA Tournament appearances and the program’s lone NCAA Final Four showing, in 2000. Ulehla produced 13 All-Americans, including five first-team honorees, one National Midfield Player of the Year, one Honda Broderick Award nominee and one Tewaaraton Trophy Award Top 5 finalist. She was named the CAA Coach of the Year in 1995 and 2000.
In addition to her head coaching positions, Ulehla was an assistant coach at Lafayette College (2003), Loyola University of Baltimore (1993-94) and Dartmouth College (1992-93). She helped Loyola reach the semifinals and Dartmouth get to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament during her tenure. An assistant coach at Towson University to begin 1991-92, she was later elevated to interim head coach and was named the TU Coach of the Year.
Ulehla earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of Maryland in 1991. She was a two-time All-American with the Terrapins (1990-91) and was named to the all-tournament team at the NCAA Final Four in 1990. She was co-captain for the field hockey team in 1990 and lacrosse team in 1991. In 2002, Ulehla had the honor of being named to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) 50th Anniversary Team, which recognized the 50 most significant women’s lacrosse players.
On the international scene as a player, Ulehla competed on the U.S. National Lacrosse team from 1990-95. Her crowning achievement came in 1993 when Team USA won the World Cup in Scotland. She is one of a few competitors who have won a World Cup title as both a player and an assistant coach (2009).
Ulehla’s laurels and contributions to the world of lacrosse were recognized in 2008 when she was inducted into the Greater Baltimore Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Later that year, she was also inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Maryvale Preparatory School in Brooklandville, Md.