The 2021 season will be the ninth for Wendy Stone as the Purple Eagles’ head women’s lacrosse coach.
Stone has taken a team that averaged less than three wins per season in the six years prior to her arrival to new heights, winning 47 games in her first seven seasons. After leading the Purple Eagles to their first .500 record in 13 seasons in 2016, including a program-best 5-3 MAAC mark, Stone repeated the feat each of the next two years, becoming the only coach to post winning conference records in three consecutive seasons since Niagara first fielded a varsity women's lacrosse team in 1996. Stone is the only coach in team history to post winning conference records in three consecutive seasons since Niagara first fielded a varsity women's lacrosse team in 1996. Additionally, she has guided the Purple Eagles to more postseason appearances (four) than all other head coaches combined (three). Prior to Stone’s arrival, the Purple Eagles hadn’t made the MAAC tournament since 2003.
In her eight seasons as the head coach of the Purple Eagles, Stone has coached four All-MAAC First Team honorees: Elizabeth Benedict (2016), Carrie-Jo Farrugia (2015), Alexandra Higgins (2017 and 2018) and Rachel MacCheyne (2017, 2018, 2019). Niagara has also produced 13 All-MAAC Second Team selections, 13 MAAC All-Rookie Team selections, and 73 MAAC All-Academic honorees under Stone's guidance. Additionally, MacCheyne became the program's first-ever IWLCA honoree after being named to the 2018 West/Midwest All-Region Second Team as well as the first player in program history to take part in the IWLCA Division I North-South Senior All-Star Game.
Although the 2020 season was cut short on March 12 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Purple Eagles showed lots of promise through the first seven games of the season, going 3-4, including a 2-0 mark at home. Sophomore goalie Michelle Messenger appeared in seven games, went 2-1 with four no-decisions, and led the nation in save percentage (.577) when the season was stopped. Senior attack Shea Swartwout was on the verge of a breakout season up front, accounting for 21 points (18 G, 3 A) in seven games, including three games with at least four goals.
The Purple Eagles saw plenty of successes and milestones both on the field and in the classroom in 2019. A program-record 15 student-athletes were named to the MAAC’s All-Academic Team. Highlights included a monumental 15-14 comeback win at Quinnipiac (April 6) that saw the team erase a nine-goal deficit and a 17-2 thumping of St. Bonaventure to open the season (Feb. 15). The victory over the Bonnies made Stone 7-0 all-time against Niagara’s area rival. MacCheyne became Niagara’s all-time leader in goals (187), points (237), draw controls (316). MacCheyne also shattered the single-season mark for draw controls (153), broke her own single-season goals record (62) and registered a program-record 75 points for the third consecutive season. Attack Caroline Crump moved up into the top five in several categories as well, including career points (second – 217), career goals (third – 151), and assists (fourth – 66) and was named an All-MAAC Second Team Attack selection.
In 2018, the Purple Eagles went 8-9 in the regular season and made the MAAC Tournament for the fourth consecutive year. The team entered the final weekend at 5-2 in MAAC play, in a five-way tie for first place in the conference. For the fourth straight year, the team qualified for the MAAC postseason tournament. Junior attack Rachel MacCheyne became the program's first-ever IWLCA honoree when she was named to the West/Midwest All-Region Second Team, designating her as one of the 32 best players in the region, alongside players from schools including Denver, Northwestern, Penn State and Stanford. The team also placed 14 student-athletes named to the MAAC All-Academic Team for their high marks in the classroom. The senior class of 2018 graduated as the winningest group in team history, racking up 32 wins between 2015 and 2018.
Niagara capped the 2017 season with the team's first appearance in the MAAC semifinals since 2003, which came after a dominant 16-4 victory over Monmouth in the first round of the MAAC tournament. The Purple Eagles finished with a 9-10 overall record and a 5-3 mark in MAAC play. Season highlights included record-setting performances at both ends of the field. MacCheyne set Niagara single-season records in goals (60) and points (75), while junior Grace Hunt tied the program record with 38 assists. At Defensively, Alexandra Higgins seized several single-season program records, including ground balls (58) and caused turnovers (37). For her efforts, Higgins was named MAAC Defender of the Year. Goalkeeper Andrea Francisco ended her four-year career first all-time at Niagara in wins (28) and third in saves (478).
Stone’s first breakout season at Niagara came in 2016. The Purple Eagles finished with a 9-9 record overall and a 5-3 record in MAAC play, the most conference wins in program history. The Purple Eagles led the MAAC with 19.94 ground balls per game and 9.78 caused turnovers per game, ranking second in the conference in scoring defense allowing 9.83 goals per game.
A second consecutive 3-5 MAAC record in Stone’s third season with the Purple Eagles led to the team’s first berth in the MAAC Championships since 2003. Niagara finished 6-12 overall, picking up non-conference wins against Cincinnati, Stetson, and St. Bonaventure.
The resurgence of the Niagara women’s lacrosse program was evident during the 2014 season as the Purple Eagles finished 7-9 overall and fifth in the MAAC with a 3-5 record. The seven overall victories and the three conference wins were the most in a single season since 2004.
During her first season with Niagara, Stone saw a veteran core mesh with a talented group of fresh faces. Her first victory as a Purple Eagle came in a 9-7 overtime win over Detroit Mercy (March 7). Niagara also captured its first victory against area rival St. Bonaventure in program history in her debut season, winning 9-7.
In addition to her work at Niagara, Stone currently serves as the team manager for the United States Women’s Lacrosse World Cup team, where she is responsible for scheduling, meals, transportation, housing, equipment and uniforms.
Prior to Niagara, Stone spent three seasons at Longwood University, first as an assistant in 2009 and 2010 before being named the interim head coach in 2011. At Longwood, Stone guided the Lancers to a 2010 National Lacrosse Conference (NLC) Championship and helped develop 12 All-NLC selections, two NLC Midfielders of the Year, an NLC Player of the Year and an NLC Goalkeeper of the Year.
Stone coached varsity lacrosse, varsity field hockey, and junior varsity ice hockey at the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts from 2006-09, where she also taught English, history, and was the assistant athletic director. Additionally, she has served as a coach and coordinator of the Lower New England teams for the US Lacrosse Women’s Division National Tournament and the 2010 LadyRoc Rubies. Stone was involved in the formation of CityLAX, an organization that focused on the growth of lacrosse in New York City.
In 2005, Stone earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in American studies from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. She was a standout student-athlete in lacrosse, field hockey, and ice hockey. Williams earned trips to the NCAA Tournament in each sport during her time there. Stone captained the 2005 lacrosse team that advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight, and she was also honored as a Scholar Athlete.