Although both of her first two seasons leading the William & Mary lacrosse team were significantly affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic, head coach Colleen Dawson has successfully guided the program through the challenges.
In addition to beginning to build a foundation for lasting success that will enable the Tribe to consistently challenge for conference championships, Dawson’s leadership has also produced exceptional results in the classroom.
Evidence of that success can be found in multiple players earning all-conference honors last season, while the entire roster – 30 players – earned the CAA Commissioner’s Academic Award, marking the second consecutive year in which the program accomplished the impressive feat. Additionally, 23 standouts garnered W&M’s Provost Award for academic excellence, while the team was recognized as an IWLCA Academic Honor Squad and 10 standouts were named to the IWLCA Academic Honor Roll.
W&M also emerged among the CAA’s leaders in multiple statistical categories in 2021, as it led the conference in ground balls per game (19.33) and ranked second in caused turnovers per game (9.0). The caused turnover average ranked ninth on the program’s single-season list, while its 12.57 draw controls per game ranked just outside W&M’s all-time single-season top-10 list (11th).
Individually, Belle Martire garnered second-team all-conference honors after ranking among the CAA’s top 10 in goals per game (3.25), points per game (4.0) and draw controls per game (3.5) – a figure that ranks fourth on the program’s single-season list. Additionally, she ranked among the top 10 nationally in free position goals per game (1.42) and free position shooting percentage (.739). Courtney Vasquenza also earned postseason honors and was named to the All-Rookie Team after ranking among the conference’s top 10 in caused turnovers per game and ground balls per game.
Although the 2020 season was cut short due to the CoVID-19 pandemic, there were many highlights from Dawson’s initial campaign in Williamsburg, including wins against Old Dominion and George Washington. Additionally, W&M was on pace for one of its most productive seasons ever in totaling ground balls, as it led the CAA and ranked 12th nationally with 20.14 per contest.
Belle Martire highlighted the team’s individual accomplishments, as she garnered VaSID All-State honors after leading the CAA and ranking 11th nationally in goals per game (4.0). The sophomore set a single-game school record with nine goals in the Tribe’ season-ending win against George Washington, while freshman Sarah Cipolla posted a single-game school record 11 draw controls in the triumph versus the Colonials.
In addition to the success on the field, every member of the roster earned CAA Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll distinction during the spring semester (29 student-athletes), while nine members of the squad garnered W&M’s Provost Award for academic excellence.
Having won a national title as a student-athlete at the University of Maryland and posted a record-breaking tenure as an assistant at Saint Joseph’s University, Colleen Dawson was selected as the W&M head lacrosse coach in August, 2019.
Dawson was instrumental in the Hawks’ success during her five seasons as an assistant, as SJU broke single-season school records for wins in back-to-back seasons (2017, 2018). Additionally, the program advanced to the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament each of the last four seasons.
A number of Hawks also benefited from Dawson’s tutelage, as the squad produced the A-10 Offensive Player of the Year (2019) and the A-10 Rookie of the Year (2016). Additionally, the Hawks garnered 13 all-conference accolades, 10 A-10 All-Rookie Team selections and eight A-10 All-Academic Team honorees.
En route to registering double-digit win totals during each of the last three seasons at SJU, Dawson’s tenure with the Hawks was highlighted by a 2018 campaign that saw the team set a school record with 12 wins, including a 7-2 mark in conference play. Additionally, the 2019 squad etched its name in program’s record book by breaking single-season school records for points (412), goals (265) and assists (147).
While Dawson assisted in all facets of the program at SJU, her primary responsibilities were coaching the draw control specialists and offensive unit.
Dawson joined the Hawks after spending two years as the director of lacrosse operations at Loyola University of Maryland in Baltimore, where she was primarily responsible for running day-to-day operations of the program, including but not limited to film breakdown, travel, and meals, and fundraising.
Dawson was a member of the Maryland women's lacrosse program from 2008-11, helping the Terrapins to three consecutive ACC Championships and the 2010 NCAA Championship. The scholar-athlete also excelled in the classroom, where she earned ACC Student-Athlete Honor Roll recognition and was a member of the Leadership Group.
Following her collegiate career, Dawson spent a year abroad working with and coaching youth lacrosse programs in Australia. She coached the Footscray U-17 Team to the 2012 Premiership title and led all scorers on the 2012 Footscray State League Team.
Dawson is a product of West Chester East High School, where she was a 2007 All-American, the All-Chester County Female Athlete of the Year, and an All-Conference and All-Area First Team selection.
Dawson earned a bachelor's of science degree in kinesiology from the University of Maryland in May 2011 and an M.S. in Organization Development and Leadership from Saint Joseph's University in May 2018.