Women’s lacrosse coach Danielle Spencer departs for Stanford

by Eric Vaughn | 6/21/19 2:00am

wlax-champions
Courtesy of Lindsay Frumer

Following a highly successful season that saw the women’s lacrosse team claim a share of the Ivy League crown and a berth to the NCAA tournament for the first time in her three-year tenure, head coach Danielle Spencer has departed for the same position at Stanford University.

This past year, Spencer was named Ivy League Co-Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season and the New England Lacrosse Journal’s Division I Women’s Coach of the Year after posting a 6-1 record in Ivy play and an 11-6 record overall. The Ivy League title under Spencer’s tutelage was the team’s first since 2011 and 12th in its history.

In her three years at the helm, Spencer has left a profound impact on the players she coached, according to multiple athletes. Recently-graduated captain Lindsay Frumer ’19 spoke highly of Spencer’s leadership.

“[Spencer] leads by example through her actions and commitment to the team,” Frumer said. “She dedicates herself wholeheartedly to studying the game and genuinely cares about fostering a competitive yet supportive team environment.” 

Attacker Michelle Yu ’21, whose shooting percentage improved by almost .200 this year under Spencer, said that Spencer consistently pushed the team to improve. 

“Spencer’s intensity for the game has inspired our team to work hard every day,” Yu said. “Her passion enabled us to find inspiration within our teammates and train even harder to accomplish the goals we set.”

When Spencer took over for longtime coach Amy Patton before the fall of 2016, she became the fourth head coach in 44 years of women’s lacrosse at the College. She assumed the role after four years as an assistant coach at Northwestern University, her alma mater. Before that, she spent the 2012 season as an assistant coach for Stanford, so next season will not be her first time wearing the cardinal and white.

Spencer has had a prodigious career in lacrosse, both as a player and a coach. As a player at Northwestern, Spencer starred in one of the greatest women’s lacrosse dynasties, contributing to three national championships and a runner-up performance. Spencer led the way as a Second-Team All-American in her junior year before garnering First-Team honors as a senior. She started 65 of her 83 career games, finishing third in draw controls, seventh in goals and eighth in points in Northwestern’s history. Her performance at Northwestern earned her an induction into the U.S. Lacrosse Greater Rochester Hall of Fame in 2018, and she spent the 2018 season playing professionally.

In addition to a stellar playing career, Spencer has performed well as a coach. When she coached at Northwestern, the Wildcats appeared in both the NCAA tournament and the top 10 in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association poll every year of her tenure. Northwestern reached the Final Four in both 2013 and 2014 and finished at the top of the American Lacrosse Conference in 2013. Spencer was also an extremely successful recruiting coordinator, highlighted by her recruitment of the No. 1 class in the nation in 2014.

Dartmouth presented a new challenge for Spencer as she became head coach. After a tough first season in which the Big Green finished 7-8 and 2-5 in the Ivy League, the team exceeded expectations in her second season. Dartmouth finished 11-5 overall and 5-2 in Ivy play in 2018 and ranked in the top 20 in the nation for most of the season. 

Her most recent season as head coach was her most successful: In addition to winning the Ivy League and reaching the NCAA tournament, the team set many records both for Dartmouth and the Ivy League. The Big Green scored 272 goals and 401 total points, which were new highs for the program. Led by midfielder Kathryn Giroux ’19, the 312 draw controls were the best-ever in the Ivy League, outpacing the previous total by more than 50.

Spencer helped her players amass individual accolades as well, with eight total players garnering All-Ivy honors during her three years with the Big Green. She coached three First-Team All-Ivy players in both 2018 and 2019, with Ellie Carson ’20 and Giroux earning unanimous selections. Additionally, in 2018, Kiera Vrindten ’20 was named Ivy League Goalkeeper of the Year.

Looking ahead, Frumer said she believes that Dartmouth will continue to excel because of both the depth of the team and the “pride” for the program. Frumer said she was extremely grateful for Spencer’s role in her lacrosse career and “wishes her all the best at Stanford.”

Yu said she was initially surprised by Spencer leaving but is apppreciative of her time with the Big Green.

“I am genuinely happy Spencer has another opportunity to show the lacrosse world just how strong of a coach she is, and [I am] grateful to have learned so much from such an inspiring and determined coach,” she said.

Midfielder Sophia Turchetta ’20 also expressed surprise and gratitude with regard to Spencer’s decision to leave, but said she believes the team will still maintain its culture.

“She has taken this program so far in just three years and we will definitely miss her passion and love for the game,” Turchetta said. “I know that our team will stay true to who we are and we will not let our traditions go away regardless of who our coach is.”

Dartmouth women’s lacrosse has been very successful over the past two years, and the team hopes to build upon that success in the future with a new coach. 

“We are always looking to improve and achieve bigger and better goals each season,” Yu said. “We are looking forward to getting a new coach that can hopefully put us on the right path toward success.”

The team’s search for its fifth head coach in program history is currently underway.