Julie Duffy will begin her fourth season as the head coach of the Merrimack College women's lacrosse program in 2019-20 and guide the Warriors into their first season competing at the Division I level in the Northeast Conference (NEC).
After being named the seventh women's lacrosse head coach at Merrimack in July of 2016, Duffy brought with her a new vision and mission that promised to revamp the program and restore a winning culture. It only took three seasons for that promise to be realized, as Merrimack's last two seasons (2018-19) competing in the NCAA Division II ranks were the best in team history.
In her third season at the helm in 2019, Duffy stunned the country with a storybook conclusion to the Warriors’ Division II era. Starting the year with an extremely challenging schedule that featured two of the top teams in the country in LIU Post and Mercy out of the gate, as well as Division I UMass Lowell, Merrimack would eventually win seven out of its next nine games and ultimately finish in seventh in a logjam of an NE10 leader board despite an 8-5 conference record.
But the Warriors saved their best for last, orchestrating three remarkable upsets as the No. 7 seed in the 2019 Northeast-10 Conference Championship, including a 16-14 stunner on the road at eventual national champion Adelphi in the opening round, a wire-to-wire 15-11 victory over New Haven in the semifinals and, finally, a wild 10-9 victory against undefeated and top-ranked Le Moyne College to shock the world and take home the program’s first-ever NE10 title.
Making the turnaround that much more remarkable was the fact that, just two seasons prior, Merrimack had won just four games. The Warriors had never come closer than four goals against Le Moyne except on one occasion in the previous nine meetings, while their win against Adelphi snapped a nearly 20-year losing streak that spanned 19 games. Merrimack was a top-three team in the conference (and top-30 nationally) on scoring defense (10.11) in 2019 thanks in part to a historic season in net by Lauren Trepaney '19, who graduated as the program's all-time leader in wins by a goalkeeper. Duffy has now led Merrimack to back-to-back double-digit win seasons after the team went six straight years with sub-.500 records.
On the individual front, Duffy would help lead 2019 graduate Amber Feminella to All-America honors, the first for the program in eight years. Feminella -- who graduated as the program's all-time scoring leader and finished just shy of the all-time goals record -- joined classmate Trepaney and rising junior Haley Bartlett as all-region selections, marking the second straight year that Merrimack boasted at least one such honoree. Duffy also saw four of her Warriors earn all-conference accolades, while -- in the classroom -- the women's lacrosse program boasted a 3.299 cumulative team-wide GPA for the academic year.
In the second year of Duffy's tenure, she guided the Warriors to their winningest season in school history highlighted by a number of major milestones both on the team and individual front. Merrimack blew by all preseason expectations in 2018 with a school-record 14 wins, which were 10 more than the previous season and indicative of the greatest improvement from the 2017 season for any team nationwide in Division II. The Warriors garnered their first national ranking in six years after upending five ranked teams along the way. Merrimack lost back-to-back games only once all season and posted double-digit goal totals in all but two games. The Warriors had two separate five-or-more-game winning streaks over the course of the year after not having won more than three games in a row in any of the previous eight seasons.
Merrimack would go on to finish fourth in the Northeast-10 Conference standings, tying its best finish ever in the regular season conference ledger to earn the program's first berth in the NE10 Championship in six years. The Warriors would advance to the league tournament's semifinal round for the first time since 2011 before ultimately seeing their magical season come to a close.
While the Warriors were impressive on all three ends of the turf throughout the 2018 season, their offense was particularly notable after finishing the year ranked fourth in the NE10 in goals per game (15.63), third in total goals (297) and third in total assists (132). Merrimack also ranked 20th nationally in scoring offense while boasting a shooting percentage of 47.8 percent (3rd/NE10, 24th/NCAA). On defense, Merrimack boasted equally impressive figures with the fourth-best scoring defense in the league (10.84).
On the individual front, Duffy coached the program's first IWLCA's First Team All-Region selection in eight years in Feminella, as well as a school-record seven NE10 All-Conference selections -- including Bartlett, the NE10 Rookie of the Year and first major end-of-year NE10 award winner for the program in 11 years.
Duffy's first season leading the Warriors featured the most wins in conference play in four years, as Merrimack quickly realized that it could stand up against plenty of the nation's top programs in 2017. Starting with a near-upset of a top-15 team in NYIT in the season opener, Merrimack would find itself in a number of close games over the course of the season, dropping three one-goal losses in total after nearly pulling off another upset later in the year at New Haven. In total, Duffy helped the Warriors claim four victories in her debut campaign, while she and the coaching staff helped develop a young nucleus on a team that featured 18 total underclassmen -- including 10 freshmen, many of whom were in the starting lineup game in and game out.
In the summer of 2018, Duffy was named head coach of the Switzerland Women's National Lacrosse Team. Among her responsibilities with the Swiss Lacrosse Federation – which do not conflict with her oversight of the women's lacrosse program at Merrimack – are to develop the Swiss women's national team program over a four-year span and to participate in and promote the development of women's lacrosse in Switzerland. She will have the opportunity to coach the team at the European Championships in June of 2019 in Tel Aviv, as well as at the World Championships in June of 2021 in Towson, Maryland. She oversees the selection and development of the national team, as well as practice and game planning.
Duffy, who came to North Andover after leading the University of Findlay's women's lacrosse team from its inception over a five-year tenure, brought with her a recruiting prowess that has infused Merrimack with an incredible young nucleus that has seen plenty of underclassmen contribute regularly year after year. She was responsible for guiding the University of Findlay's women's lacrosse program from the ground up and spent five seasons with the Oilers. She saw her teams improve their win total each season and guided Findlay to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Association (GLIAC) Tournament Final in her final season as part of a school-record 12-win campaign.
Overall, Duffy compiled 34 wins over four years with Findlay, leading the team to postseason conference tournament berths in all four years of varsity competition. Duffy also helped get the squad off the ground and running by coaching the Oilers while they competed at the club level for the program's initial year of existence in 2011-12 before becoming full Division II members.
Individually, Duffy helped a number of her student-athletes earn individual accolades, including a two-time Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Association (IWLCA) All-American and All-Region selection, as well as a three-time GLIAC Midlfielder of the Year and a GLIAC Attacker of the Year.
Before that 12-win campaign – which also marked the school's first-ever winning season – Duffy led the Oilers to back-to-back eight-win seasons in 2014 and 2015. In the team's first year of competition in 2013, the Oilers won an impressive six games and went an even 4-4 in the highly competitive GLIAC, qualifying the league's postseason tournament and ending the year with a perfect record at home.
Prior to her tenure at Findlay, Duffy served as the head women's lacrosse coach at Division III Ohio Wesleyan University from 2008-11, compiling a 21-25 record. She began her collegiate coaching career at Ithaca College, serving as a graduate assistant on the women's lacrosse staff after a successful playing career at Hartwick College.
Outside of her responsibilities as head coach, the Westhampton, Massachusetts, native previously served on the IWLCA Mentorship Committee and had former stints as the NCAA Division II representative on the IWLCA board of directors and also was a member of the IWLCA All-American Committee. She also is a graduate of the NCAA Women's Coaches Academy and the NCAA Academy 2.0 as a WeCOACH member.
Duffy graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science from Hartwick in 2007. She then completed her master's degree in exercise and sports science, with a concentration in sport psychology, at Ithaca during the summer of 2008.