Jenny Graap returned to her alma mater in 1997 with one goal in mind: to build the Cornell women’s lacrosse team into a championship contender. Now entering her 21st year at the helm in 2017-18, Graap has been honored as the 2002 Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Coach of the Year, the 2006 Inside Lacrosse Magazine Northeast Coach of the Year, the 2017 Ivy League Coach of the Year and a three-time IWLCA Northeast Coach of the Year (2002, 2006, 2016), while developing the Big Red women’s lacrosse program into one of the most successful in the nation.
Graap, who accumulated 21 wins in four years at George Mason before taking the reigns at Cornell, has built an Ivy League and national title contender in her first 20 years. She has posted a 193-126 record at Cornell and a 214-170 mark in 23 years as a head coach. She reached her 200th career win in dramatic fashion, defeating Penn, 11-10, on May 8, 2016, to win the Big Red's first-ever Ivy League Tournament Championship and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In her tenure at Cornell, Graap has had 91 All-Ivy selections, 53 IWLCA All-Region selections, 18 IWLCA national All-Americans, three CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, four Ivy League Players of the Year and one national player of the year finalist. Her teams have reached postseason play 10 times since she returned to Cornell and have won at least 10 games nine times as well.
The 2017 season was once again one to be celebrated as the team earned a share of the Ivy League regular-season title, made its sixth straight appearance in the Ivy League tournament and made back-to-back trips to the NCAA tournament. The Big Red’s defense was one of the best in the nation, ranking eighth at the conclusion of the season. Following a regular season mark of 11-4, the team earned a spot in the annual league tournament, besting Harvard, 16-11, in the first round before falling to powerhouse Princeton, 12-9, in the championship game. The squad’s season continued with play in the national tournament, making it to the second round after topping Notre Dame 12-7 in the first round. Cornell once again faced league foe Princeton for a spot in the quarterfinals, but the Tigers emerged victorious again, 11-9, to end the Big Red’s season. Several members of the team notched big postseason honors of their season performances. Graap earned the title of the Ivy League Coach of the Year and Catie Smith ’17 was the league’s Defender of the Year. Smith and classmates Amie Dickson and Kristy Gilbert were first-team All-Ivy honorees. Senior Catherine Ellis, junior Taylor Reed and senior Renee Poullott all earned Honorable Mention All-Ivy recognition. Cornell's three first-team selections were the most for the program since five in 2006. Smith also became a first-team national and regional All-American while Poullott, Dickson and Gilbert notched regional All-American status as well. Three school records were brought down in the 2017 season. Dickson broke the program record for assists in a season with 41, Smith demolished the single season record for caused turnovers with 42 and Poullott became the winningest goalkeeper in program history with 41 victories to her name.
The Big Red had one of the best seasons in program history in 2016, beginning the season 8-0, marking the best start in program history. Led by a balanced offense, with six players finishing with 30+ points, and a nationally elite defense, Cornell was an underdog team that fought its way into the national conversation. Ranking as high as No. 13 in the IWLCA Coaches Poll, the Big Red posted its second-most wins in program history, finishing the year 14-5. Cornell battled to a 5-2 Ivy League record, its best conference mark since 2012, earning a No. 3 seed in the 2016 Ivy League Tournament. But the Big Red emerged on top, defeating second-seeded Princeton, 10-9, in overtime for the program's first Ivy League Tournament win before taking down host Penn, 11-10, to hoist the championship trophy for the first time. After earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with the win and making its first Tournament appearance since 2006, the Big Red was once again rewarded, snagging the Tournament's No. 8 seed and earning the right to host First and Second Round games for the first time since 2002. The Big Red downed a hot Canisius team, 15-11, in the first round before suffering a heartbreaking 7-6 loss to Massachusetts in the second round to end the storybook season. In addition to the team's historic success, a number of individuals on the 2016 squad etched their names into the record books. Co-captain Emily Tripodi '16 set a new school record in career assists, finishing with 116, and Catie Smith '17 set a new single-season standard in caused turnovers with 41. Tripodi earned Second-Team All-Ivy, along with goalkeeper Renee Poulllott '17 and Taylor Reed '18, while Smith and Joey Coffy '18 were named to the First-Team. Smith and Coffy were both also IWLCA Regional All-Americans, while Poullott earned second-team honors. Smith concluded her stellar season as an IWLCA Third-Team All-American.
Cornell’s five All-Ivy selections in 2015 were tied for second-most in the league, with Lindsay Toppe making the first team for the third consecutive season. Toppe set a new program record for career goals (149) and career game-winning goals (10), and the team set a new school mark for goals scored in a single game in its 23-6 rout of Cal. The Big Red finished 9-7 overall and 4-3 in conference play, reaching the Ivy League Tournament for the fourth straight year and fifth time in program history. Cornell closed the season in heartbreaking fashion with a 7-6 loss to Penn in the Ivy League Tournament semifinals.
In 2014, Lindsay Toppe was named the Ivy League Attacker of the Year and was a unanimous First Team All-Ivy selection that year. Sophomore Sarah Hefner broke the single-season record for draw controls (68) set the previous season by Caroline Salisbury ’13, who had 48.
In 2013, the Big Red reached the Ivy League Tournament as the No. 4 seed. Kate Ivory '13 was named the Ivy League's Defensive Player of the Year, and she and Lindsay Toppe made the All-Ivy First Team and the IWLCA All-Northeast Region First Team. The Big Red had a victory over then-No. 7 Penn State at home, and the team went a near-perfect 6-1 on Schoellkopf Field. Caroline Salisbury '13 broke the single-season record for draw controls (51) and freshman Emily Tripodi '16 exploded onto to the scene by breaking Cornell's single-season record for assists (36).
The 2012 campaign resulted in the team's highest win total since 2006, and Cornell earned a berth in the Ivy League Tournament for the second time in team history. Scoring 227 goals, the Big Red came just one goal shy of tying the all-time school record of 228 set in 2002. Jessi Steinberg '12 and Cacki Helmer '12 earned first-team All-Ivy honors and Helmer was named an IWLCA Second-Team All-American.
The 2011 season saw the Big Red knock off a pair of ranked teams, including then-No. 2 Florida 9-6 in the season finale. The win over the Gators represented the highest ranked opponent the Big Red had ever defeated. Cornell also knocked off then No. 14 Notre Dame and was 3-1 down the stretch as the team finished 6-8. Steinberg '12 and Kate Ivory '13 each earned first-team All-Ivy accolades and were named to the IWLCA all-region team.
After starting out the 2010 season with a 2-6 record, Graap's team topped No. 17 Princeton on the road, snapping a 22-game losing streak to the Tigers. The Big Red finished 4-3 in Ivy play to finish third and made the conference's inaugural postseason tournament, falling to Dartmouth. Cornell also nearly pulled an upset over eventual national semifinalist Syracuse, dropping a 7-6 contest.
The 2009 squad was ranked throughout the season and knocked off NCAA tournament qualifier Vanderbilt, as well as ranked teams from both New Hampshire and Rutgers. The Big Red finished 9-7, with six of those losses coming to ranked teams, all the while playing with a roster that featured just four seniors. Tissy O'Connor was named a second-team IWLCA All-American.
The 2008 season saw the Big Red finish second in the Ivy League (5-2) en route to a 10-6 campaign that included four wins over top 20 squads. Graap registered her 100th coaching win at Cornell with a 16-7 victory at Colgate in the season opener. Both Courtney Farrell and Katherine Simmons were named to the IWLCA All-America third team, with Farrell breaking the school’s career scoring and assist marks during the year.
Farrell was named first-team all-region in 2007 after setting the school record for single-season assists (34). She joined Simmons as an all-region and first-team All-Ivy pick. Despite finishing 5-10, all 10 of the team’s losses came against squads that were nationally ranked at the time of the game or moved into the rankings after a win over the Big Red.
In 2006, Graap directed a team featuring just four seniors to a share of the program’s first Ivy title, leading the Big Red to a 12-4 overall record and its third NCAA tournament appearance. The 12 wins in a season ranks third all-time at Cornell, while the six Ivy wins tied the school record set by her 2002 squad. For her efforts, Graap was named the IWLCA and Inside Lacrosse Northeast Region Coach of the Year. The Big Red also completed its second undefeated home slate (7-0). In all, 11 of the team’s top 12 scorers were underclassmen. Graap did all of this despite a schedule that featured 10 games against teams ranked at some point during the season, including a win over NCAA finalist Dartmouth, as well as victories over perennial powerhouses Syracuse, Yale and Vanderbilt. Senior goalkeeper Maggie Fava was selected as Ivy League co-Player of the Year, while five players earned first-team All-Ivy honors, four were first-team all-region picks, and Fava (third-team), Margaux Viola (third-team) and Anne Riordan (second-team) were named to the IWLCA All-America teams.
In 2005, Cornell posted a strong 9-6 record, finishing the season ranked No. 17 in the final IWLCA poll. Graap’s young squad toppled four teams ranked in the top 20 during the season and also defeated NCAA-bound Patriot League champion Colgate. The team’s 4-3 mark in Ancient Eight play was good for a third-place tie in the final standings and represented the fifth time in the last six years Cornell posted a winning league record. Eight of the team’s top 11 scorers were freshmen or sophomores.
The 2004 campaign was a trying one for Graap and the Big Red, but the 6-9 season may have been one of her best coaching efforts. After losing a combined six All-Americans in the previous two years, Graap took a team with just two seniors that dropped eight of its first nine games and turned the ship around, helping Cornell to five wins in its last six contests. The Big Red knocked off nationally ranked Rutgers and Syracuse, as well as NCAA tournament participant and Patriot League champion Colgate. It also dropped one-goal decisions to NCAA semifinalist Vanderbilt and Ivy League runner-up Dartmouth on the road.
Cornell claimed its second Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference title in four years to cap off an 11-5 campaign in 2003. The team finished the season ranked No. 12 nationally in the IWLCA poll and defeated three other top 20 teams. Sarah Averson ’03 was named to the Tewaaraton Watch List for national player of the year honors.
The 2002 season was unquestionably the greatest season in Big Red women’s lacrosse history. Cornell culminated the campaign with a 16-2 record; its two losses coming on the road against the two national finalists, and set nearly a dozen school records, including wins (16), winning percentage (.889) and highest Ivy League finish to date (second). The team finished in the top seven nationally in scoring offense, scoring defense, scoring margin, winning percentage and ground balls. Cornell completed an undefeated season at home (7-0), topped eight ranked opponents and ended Maryland’s seven-year run as national champions with a 14-4 victory over the Terps in the NCAA quarterfinals. The team’s success earned Graap IWLCA and Inside Lacrosse National and Regional Coach of the Year honors. In all, seven players were named All-Ivy and four earned All-America status, with Jaimee Reynolds ’02 earning Ivy League Player of the Year and becoming a finalist for national player of the year.
The 2001 season was a breakout year, as the team finished with a record of 11-4 and received its first NCAA tournament invitation. The Big Red used a balanced offense and a stingy defense to go 5-2 in Ivy League play, good for a third-place tie, ranking fourth in the country in scoring defense (7.00 goals allowed per game), while averaging nearly 10 goals per game. Five players were honored when All-Ivy League teams were announced, and two were named All-Americans.
Graap’s 2000 squad set numerous records, including wins in a season (13), most goals (210) and most points scored (318), all since broken by the 2002 team, while ending the year at 13-4. The team capped the season with the ECAC title, running through Sacred Heart, 17-4, and Johns Hopkins, 16-4.
In 1999, the Big Red made its first ECAC tournament appearance since 1993 and wrapped up the season with a 9-6 mark.
Graap is used to meeting challenges that are presented to her. Prior to returning to Cornell, she had been the head lacrosse coach at George Mason for four years. In 1994, the first year the Patriots sponsored the sport, the team went 3-12. Under Graap’s tutelage, they improved to 6-10 in 1997 with a significantly stronger schedule.
A 1986 graduate of Cornell’s College of Human Ecology, Graap was an assistant women’s lacrosse coach at Penn State from 1990-93 while completing a master’s degree in exercise and sport science. During her time with the Nittany Lions, they made three NCAA tournament appearances. Graap was also a field hockey and lacrosse intern at William Smith College from 1989-90. She received her first coaching experience as the head lacrosse mentor at the Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child in Summit, N.J., in 1989.
During her undergraduate days, Graap captained both the field hockey and lacrosse teams as a junior and senior, and earned a total of eight varsity letters in the two sports. She was second-team All-Ivy in field hockey as a senior, and is tied for 14th on the Cornell all-time career list with 24 points on 11 goals and two assists. Her 11 goals in field hockey tied her for 12th place on the Big Red’s list for career goals at the time.
In 1986, Graap was named to the Brine Regional All-America lacrosse team and ranks among the top 15 on the all-time school points list with 91 (61 goals, 30 assists). She is still ranked on the career goals and career assists lists with the Big Red women laxers. While at Cornell, she also served as secretary of the Red Key Athletic Honorary Society. She joined her younger sister, Ellen, on both the field hockey and lacrosse teams during the 1985-86 seasons. Ellen was inducted into Cornell’s Athletic Hall of Fame in November 2000.
From 1991-93, Graap remained active as a player, representing the Philadelphia Club at the USWLA national tournament. She also participated in the Vail Lacrosse Shoot-Out as a Team Ripple player from 1992-97, 1999 and 2004.
Graap has served the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches’ Association in several different roles throughout her career. She was a former IWLCA Division I vice president, has chaired the Northeast All Region committee, has served on both the All-American committee and the Coach of the Year committee, and is a new member on the Rules Administration and Game Management Committee. She was responsible for the design and launch of the IWLCA’s web site (www.iwlca.org).
Graap has also worked with the NCAA lacrosse championships, assisting with the national selection committee as a NCAA South regional representative and serving as a NCAA representative at the Division III championships. She served as a clinician for the NCAA’s Youth Education in Sport (YES) program in 1996, 1997, 2000 and 2005.
A native of West Chester, Pa., Graap attended East High School, where she lettered three times in basketball and played on the state runner-up field hockey team, in addition to the undefeated Chesmont lacrosse championship squad.
Graap and her husband, Dan Allen, reside in Ithaca.