Columbus, Ohio— The Ohio State’s women’s lacrosse program has made a few changes to its coaching staff for the 2017-18 season, head coach Alexis Venechanos announced Friday.
Current Buckeye assistant coach Jill Byers has been promoted to associate head coach, while newcomers Molly Hendrick and Barbara Sullivan will take on the roles of assistant coach and director of operations, respectively. Morgan Fee, who concluded her career this past spring, will also be sticking around the program while she pursues a Master’s degree.
Both Byers and Fee are very familiar with the program, having spent the last few years coaching and playing for the Buckeyes, respectively. In Hendrick and Sullivan, Ohio State has two of the most talented and decorated college lacrosse players of the last several years. It’s an extremely strong coaching staff that should have no problem getting the most out of a collection of talented student-athletes.
“I’m honored and extremely grateful for this opportunity to continue growing at The Ohio State University,” Byers said of her promotion. “I’m excited to continue to mentor and lead these amazing student-athletes. It has been a privilege to work alongside Alexis these past few years and I look forward to the bright future of this program.”
Byers, having just completed her third season as an assistant coach with the Buckeyes in 2017, has helped Ohio State to 30 victories since her arrival in 2015. The team has also earned an NCAA tournament berth and Big Ten Championship title game appearance since she came to Columbus.
"Promoting Jill to associate head coach was an easy decision,” Venechanos said. “She's a tireless recruiter and she brings contagious energy to our program every day. She is one of the top assistants in the country and has had a positive and strong impact on Buckeye Lacrosse since she joined our program."
With the addition of Hendrick the Ohio State staff now has five national championships to its name: her national title as a player with North Carolina in 2016 plus Venechanos, who won two championships as a player at Maryland and two as a coach at Northwestern.
"We are beyond excited to add Molly to our coaching staff,” Venechanos said. “She just completed an outstanding playing career and she brings tremendous experience, passion, and knowledge to Columbus. I can't wait for her to start working with our players."
Hendrick finished her playing career at North Carolina this past spring as one of the best players in program history. She was a two-time All-American and three-time All-ACC honoree, ending her career with 186 goals and 220 points, which both rank among the highest totals for a Tar Heel. In 2017 she set school records with 72 goals and 83 points en route to being named the 2017 ACC Attacker of the Year. As a junior in 2016 Hendrick led her team with 10 goals during the NCAA Tournament, including three in a 13-7 victory over Maryland to capture the national championship.
Hendrick’s career took off from day one in Chapel Hill. As a freshman she started all 20 games for the Tar Heels, earning 33 draw controls and accumulating five multi-goal games. She was named to Inside Lacrosse’s 2014 All-Rookie Team for her efforts, the first of three IL postseason honors she would receive in her career.
Off the field, Hendrick frequently participated in North Carolina’s Leadership Lab, a leadership training program for student-athletes. Over the course of their careers student-athletes receive authentic leadership development training, undertake project management, draft a rudimentary business plan, receive internship/work experience, go through a project incubator, perform community outreach, present a scaled-down thesis proposal and defense, and benchmark leadership development best practices. All that, combined with her dominant playing career, makes her a perfect candidate to help lead the Buckeyes as an assistant coach.
Sullivan comes to Columbus with excellent lacrosse credentials as well. She was a three-time All-American as a defenseman at Notre Dame, where she holds the single game, single season, and career records for caused turnovers and draw controls. She was twice named to the All-ACC’s First Team and was a two-time All-Big East honoree as well, and her first team All-America distinction as a sophomore made her the youngest in school history to achieve that feat. Sullivan suited up 82 games for Notre Dame during her career, starting all of them, and tallied 188 ground balls and 269 draw controls.
A leader of the highest caliber, Sullivan was only the ninth three-year team captain in the history of Notre Dame Athletics. In 2015 she became just the sixth defensive player ever to be a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award as the nation’s top player. Last year she served as a marketing intern for the Fighting Irish.
"Barbara brings a unique background to Buckeye Nation with her stellar playing career and marketing experience,” Venechanos said of her new director of ops. “She will be able to use this to promote our program and she will be another strong role model for our players."
Bringing in two of the most dominant offensive and defensive players of the last several years is something that has Venechanos and the rest of the Buckeyes excited for the future.
"Adding Attacker of the Year and Defender of the Year award winners to the coaching staff will definitely be an asset to our program.”
In addition to these new hires, another familiar face will be back in the fold for Ohio State lacrosse. Morgan Fee, who recently finished her career as a Buckeye after suiting up for 53 games during her career as a midfielder, will be lending her assistance to the staff while pursuing a postgraduate degree with the university’s coaching Master’s program. An OSU Scholar Athlete and Academic All-Big Ten selection during her time at Ohio State, Fee will certainly be another fantastic coaching option to utilize.
"We are excited to have Morgan back to Buckeye Lacrosse as she continues her education and journey to be a coach,” Venechanos said.
Adding two of the most decorated collegiate players in recent memory and keeping a pair of Buckeyes around the team is a surefire way to keep building an already strong lacrosse program at Ohio State.
Humphrey Highlights | Mackenzie Maring