SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (June 12, 2019) – Western New England University will add women's ice hockey to its athletics program. University President Anthony S. Caprio announced the new offering, which will begin competing in 2020.
"Western New England University takes immense pride in offering opportunities for student-athletes to excel in the classroom and in their chosen sport," said Caprio. "This latest expansion of our athletics program adds a fast-growing and exciting sport to the current roster of 19 NCAA sports for women and men."
While the number of youth hockey teams for girls has soared in recent years, Western New England will be the first Springfield-area college to offer the sport at the varsity level.
"Women's Hockey represents the perfect opportunity to add a 20th sport to our lineup," said Matt LaBranche, Director of Athletics, Recreational Sport & Physical Education. "Interest at the high school and youth levels has never been higher, and we are proud to be providing a new opportunity for those young women to pursue their passion in a highly competitive collegiate program."
LaBranche added that while interest in Massachusetts and Connecticut is high, Western New England expects to recruit students nationwide for the new program.
LaBranche also announced the hiring of Katie S. Zimmerman to the position of head coach for the new team. Zimmerman spent the past five years as an assistant coach at Amherst College. She also has coaching experience with USA Hockey and SUNY Cortland.
"Katie has a proven track record as a coach, talent evaluator, and recruiter," said LaBranche. "I'm confident over the course of the next year she will set the stage for a successful first season in 2020-21 and beyond."
Zimmerman says she is honored to be selected the first head coach of the program, and excited for the opportunity. "It is clear to me that Western New England University is a special institution with an excellent Department of Athletics, and I feel very fortunate to be joining such a vibrant campus and community," she said. "I look forward to recruiting and building a competitive Women's Ice Hockey team that shares my passion for Western New England, and I couldn't be prouder to join the Golden Bear family!"
Zimmerman is a 2013 graduate of Hamilton College, where she enjoyed a four-year playing career. She was a two-time All-NESCAC honoree, leading the Conference in goals scored in her junior and senior season. Zimmerman earned D3hockey.com All-East Region accolades as a senior. She holds a Master's in Coaching Education from Ohio University.
Western New England University joins 66 schools nationwide currently fielding women's hockey teams at the Division III level. That number includes several members of The Commonwealth Coast Conference, where a majority of Western New England teams compete. The University currently offers a total 19 varsity sports, including nine women's sports: basketball, cross country, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, and volleyball.