When the women’s lacrosse team takes the field this spring to defend its Atlantic Ten title, there will be one drastic difference from seasons past.
For the first time in 12 years, Kim Ciarrocca will not be roaming the sidelines and barking commands to players.
Ciarrocca, a member of the Temple Athletics Hall of Fame, resigned this past summer and took over the reins at the University of Delaware.
Replacing Ciarrocca is Jennifer Ulehla, who coached at James Madison University from 1994 to 2001. While she does have rather large shoes to fill, Ulehla has an extensive resume to help her case.
Ulehla led James Madison to the NCAA tournament in six of her eight seasons at the helm, including an appearance in the Final Four in 2000. She also guided the Dukes to three conference titles and twice earned Coach of the Year honors in the Colonial Athletic Association.
“I always thought that Temple had an excellent lacrosse tradition,” Ulehla said. “I’ve coached and played against Temple through the years, and I was always impressed with their style of play. Now I want to continue that tradition.”
She left JMU after the 2001 season, and worked as an assistant coach with the United States Developmental Team.
In her playing days, she was a first team all-American at Maryland in 1991, and a member of the United States women’s lacrosse team from 1990-1994, where she helped lead the squad to a world championship in 1993.
With her experience and knowledge of the game intact, Ulehla has the task of getting used to brand new faces and a whole new environment.
“I keep telling the players that we’re in this together, because I’m new to them and they’re new to me,” she said. “They are reacting in a very positive way. It’s important for me and them (the players) to take it one step at a time.”
While unfamiliar with the city, Ulehla hasn’t had any difficulty adjusting.
“Now that I’m in Philadelphia, I feel so alive because this is a much different environment for me,” she added. “The campus just has so much life, and that was very appealing to me.”
Ciarrocca, meanwhile, will be leaving behind a legacy. As a player she earned all-America honors in 1987 and 1988 and helped lead the Owls to the national championship in1988.
Hired in 1993, she compiled a record of 133-77 with the Owls. She guided the program to five A-10 crowns and seven NCAA tournament appearances.
Despite all the success, Ciarrocca left the team this summer after a disagreement with the athletic department. She claims that she was repeatedly denied the funds necessary to keep her assistant coaches on her staff.
“We lost her over pennies,” said Ciarrocca, regarding one of her former assistants. “As an alum of Temple, I’m concerned about all of the non-revenue sports. You can’t run things if you don’t take care of your coaches.”
As for Ulehla, she’s not worried about having similar problems.
“Anytime someone leaves a program there can be some disagreements,” she said. “I’m not going to focus on it because every situation is different.”
Ulehla is also not concerned with having any letdowns in her first season at Temple.
“It’s just a matter of coming in and creating my own environment,” she said. “In the last few years, this team hasn’t been getting past that next step. My goal is to get them to the next step and back into the national spotlight.”
Ulehla will have a tough task ahead as the team returns a load of underclassmen and only two seniors.
While it is a young team, Ulehla has rather high expectations.
“It would be a disappointment for me if we didn’t get back to the A-10 championship,” she added. “I want to get there, because that’s where Temple belongs.”
Jonathan Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.