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Title IX at 50: An Oral History of Marymount Women’s Lacrosse

Title IX at 50: An Oral History of Marymount Women’s Lacrosse

Welcome to the second edition of Title IX at 50, a series where all through the month of July we will feature stories of Marymount Athletics and the women who have shaped it.

This week takes a deep dive into the founding of the Marymount women's lacrosse program, which was started in the mid-1990s due in large part to Title IX.

In the 1990s, the Citadel and VMI were involved in cases that tested Title IX. Rachelle Barimany '97 was following the cases for a class she was taking as an undergraduate student at Marymount.

"Those cases were about including women in places that were historically male-driven," said Barimany. "Both of them were about women wanting to attend these classically male institutions. In both instances, women wanted equality. In our case, it was a little different since we were historically a women's college, but we had an imbalance between men's and women's sports. At the time, there were less opportunities to play collegiate sports at Marymount for women."

"I remember going down the hill [away from Lee Center toward the library], there were dorms on the right side," said Dr. Andrea Hagen, who finished undergrad in 1996 before later receiving a masters and doctorate degree from Marymount. "I remember female students were hanging sheets out the windows with "Title IX" and "Equal Sports," something along those lines, written on them."

Barimany enlisted her friends Kim Betz, who she met living on the third floor of Rowley Hall, and Darcy Littlefield, a women's soccer player with mutual friends who ended up coaching the MU women's lacrosse program from 2003-06, to help round up other female students that might be interested in playing lacrosse. With a group of 20 girls interested, the trio marched into Dean Linda McMahon's office to plead their case.

"We walked in and said, 'We want a women's lacrosse team,' and before we could even present our argument, she was like, 'Sure! No problem, let's do it.' It was a welcome surprise, she was very supportive," said Barimany.

The head women's soccer coach at the time, Lisa Pavloch, agreed to coach the women's lacrosse team on a volunteer basis. The team competed at the club level against anyone they could for two years before transitioning to the NCAA level. The team had a mix of first-year players and others who had experience with the sport.

"It was about 50-50, if I had to guess," said Erin Orr (McCarthy), who went on to be inducted into the Marymount Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010. "We had a couple girls from Maryland who may have been average in high school and were like 'All right, I can play, this is cool.' But there were a lot of people who had never played before."

"Anybody who wanted to come out and play, would play," said Barimany. "There weren't tryouts or anything like that. We did a lot of teaching of basic skills to those who had never played. There were some new players that picked it up faster than others, like Erin. And she obviously went on to be extremely successful. We had a whole bunch of those people who were athletes and were just interested in another sport."

Two of the biggest challenges in the infancy of the program were merely infrastructure and practice time. Without a budget and facing competition for field and gym time with the rest of the athletics department, the first few years were a challenge.

"It was kind of pieced together in the beginning," added Barimany. "We were the 'Bad News Bears,' I suppose. We taped numbers on our shirts and we told everyone to wear some gray mesh shorts and a blue t-shirt."

"I remember us getting uniforms, which was a three-button shirt," said Hagen. "I still have it, it hasn't aged. I think it's made of the thickest cotton material you'll ever find."

"We practiced on the back field before it was turf and it was often a mud pit after it rained," Orr said. "Our coach got really creative and we used to do 6 AM practices down on the National Mall. She would try to make it fun for us since we didn't really have a field."

"We would practice at really strange hours and times because everyone fights for field time," said Barimany. "We would reserve the gym at 9 o'clock at night. There was only one gym at the time. That was part of the fun, trying to make it all happen."

For Barimany, Title IX was truly the catalyst for starting the women's lacrosse program.

"It really was the driving force to bringing women's lacrosse to Marymount," said Barimany. "It means a lot to me. I love to see this legacy continue."

"Sports provides a family for everybody who's on a team," said Hagen. "To have been part of a club, to have helped create a program that is so successful at Marymount, it's just very humbling."

"Without [Title IX], this team and the memories and everything we've talked about would not have existed," Orr said. "I feel grateful and fortunate that it gave us that opportunity to have community, friendships, competition, the opportunity to represent our school."

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