Ann Elliott Whidden is in her sixth season as the head coach at Colorado and has compiled a 65-30 record (.684) in that time. She has been recognized twice as the IWLCA West/Midwest Region Coach of the Year (2017 and ’18), and was the 2018 Pac-12 Coach of the Year and 2017 MPSF Coach of the Year.
Whidden was hired as CU’s first-ever head lacrosse coach on March 26, 2012, just short of two months after the school officially added the program.
In her five years as the leader of the program, the Buffaloes have thrived. Besides an impressive overall record, she has guided the team to a 34-11 mark in conference play, which included a 9-1 record during the inaugural Pac-12 season in 2018. With that mark, the Buffs became the first-ever regular season Pac-12 Lacrosse Champions.
Under Whidden’s guidance, the Buffs have shown improvement each year. In the first four years of competition, the Buffs finished in the top four of the MPSF, which included a second place finish in 2018. Then in 2018, CU won the Pac-12 regular season championship.
Under her leadership, several of players have earned numerous honors in the program’s short five-year history, including Julia Lisella who was named the 2018 IWLCA Goalkeeper of the Year. Four of her athletes have combined for six IWLCA All-America honors. Sarah Brown and Lisella were the first two players to earn first team honors (2018); Brown was also a second team honoree in 2017. Darby Kiernan was also a two-time All-American, earning second team honors in 2018 and third team honors in 2017. Paige Soenksen was the fourth Buff to record the prestigious award as a member of the third team in 2017.
Additionally, Whidden’s athletes have recorded 13 all-region and 25 all-conference honors, in addition to 12 conference all-tournament selections. In five seasons, CU has earned 34 weekly conference awards.
The Buffs broke into the national rankings in 2017 and have been a mainstay in the polls for the last two seasons. In 2017, the Buffs finished the season with a school record 16 wins. They advanced to the NCAA for the first time in the program’s short history and were ranked as high as fourth in all three major polls. CU went on to record a 14-6 mark in 2018 and achieved more success. The Buffs advanced to their second straight NCAA Tournament and won their first NCAA Tournament game with a 23-18 victory against Jacksonville.
The Buffs have been a force at home, recording a 28-5 mark in Boulder. They were undefeated at home in 2017 (8-0) and were 8-1 in 2018. CU recorded 19 straight home wins from 2016-18, which is tied for the fifth in NCAA history.
Academically, the Buffs have performed well in the classroom. They have received the IWLCA Team Academic Honor Squad award for the last four years (they were not eligible in their first season). Seven of CU’s athletes have been named to the IWLCA Academic Honor Roll for 11 overall selections. Numerous athletes have earned spots on the MPSF and Pac-12 Academic teams as well.
In 2018, CU was solid on offense and defense. The Buffs were 26th in scoring offense (14.00) and held their opponents to 9.90 goals per game, which was 17th in the NCAA. In conference play, CU’s 14.00 goals per game ranked second. Defensively, CU ranked second in save percentage (.482).
The Buffs won the inaugural regular season Pac-12 Championship with a 9-1 record. Their only loss in league play was in overtime at Southern California (8-7). CU earned the top-seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, defeating Oregon 16-6 in the second round. The Buffs fell in the championship game to Stanford, after defeating the Cardinal twice during the regular season. CU’s season continued as the Buffs earned an at-large bid to their second NCAA Tournament. The Buffs defeated Jacksonville 23-18 in the first round, which was CU’s first ever tournament win, before Florida defeated the Buffs in the second round, 13-9.
CU was again strong defensively in 2017, as well as offensively. The Buffs finished the campaign ranked third nationally in scoring defense (8.10) and were sixth in scoring margin (+6.35) and turnovers per game (13.95). The 16-4 mark for the season gave CU a .800 win percentage, which was tied for the eighth best in the NCAA.
The Buffs also recorded their first wins against ranked opponents during the campaign, which included a huge 11-10 overtime win against No. 9 Northwestern on Feb. 12 to open the season. CU went on to defeat three other ranked teams: No. 16 UMass (11-7), No. 14 Denver (14-3) and No. 6 Penn State (16-11).
The 2016 season was another big step in the right direction. CU won a then-school-record 13 games, going 13-5 overall and finishing third in the MPSF with a 7-2 conference mark. The Buffs reached the semifinals of the conference tournament, defeating Oregon 11-3 in the first round. All five losses during the season came to teams ranked in the top 10 nationally and the Buffaloes received votes in both the IWLCA and the Inside Lacrosse top-20 polls several times during the year.
Defense was again an emphasis for the Buffs, who ranked second in the MPSF and seventh nationally in scoring defense (7.00). They also were second in the MPSF and eighth in the nation in scoring margin (+5.61 goals per game). Offensively, CU ranked third in the MPSF and 14th in the country in scoring (12.61) and the team’s .722 winning percentage was the 14th-best in the country.
Despite the excellent season on both ends of the field, CU was left out of the 26-team NCAA Tournament field. The Buffs faced six teams during the year that were selected to the postseason, including James Madison, which they defeated 15-14 in overtime on March 3.
Five Buffs were selected All-MPSF at the end of the season. Marie Moore, Darby Kiernan and Sarah Brown were first-team selections, while Johnna Fusco and Paige Soenksen were named to the second team. Moore and Brown were both second team all-region picks by the IWLCA.
In 2015, Colorado earned a No. 4 seed at the MPSF Tournament and defeated San Diego State 15-6 to advance to the semifinals for a second straight year. The Buffs dominated at home, posting a 6-2 record at Kittredge Field.
Prior to joining Colorado, Whidden was a major force at powerhouse Northwestern. After an astounding collegiate career, she returned to her alma mater as an assistant coach ahead of the 2009 season. Prior to the start of the 2012 season, she became the first to ever be promoted to the associate level. As a player and aide under Kelly Amonte Hiller, who is considered to be one of the nation’s top coaches and recruiters, Whidden and Northwestern appeared in the NCAA title game seven times, winning six titles, including three as a player and three as a member of the staff.
After graduating from Northwestern with a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film in 2007, Whidden served as the head coach of the Wildcat Elite Club and the Wildcat Developmental Team for Amonte Sports. She also spent one season as an assistant coach for New Trier High School, helping the Trevians to the 2008 state championship.
She was also actively involved in Amonte Sports since her playing days at Northwestern, serving as a camp counselor as well as heading the development of New Wave lacrosse clinics for the organization and WomensLax.com, coordinating youth and high school clinics across the country. She also utilized her major, doing extensive work in video production for Amonte.
Primarily a defender during her collegiate career, she played in 72 games, including starts in 63 of a possible 64 her sophomore through senior years, all NCAA championship seasons. As a senior and team captain in 2007, she was an Inside Lacrosse third-team All-America selection when she was a key member of a defensive unit that allowed a NCAA-low 6.1 goals per game, with opponents scoring in double figures only twice. She played an important role on Northwestern’s 2005, 2006 and 2007 national championship teams, scoring 14 goals, causing 44 turnovers and scooping up 101 ground balls. She earned four varsity letters and was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten team member.
Whidden was a four-year letter-winner in lacrosse at Ohio’s Shaker Heights High, where she set a school record with 278 ground balls. She had 115 goals, 50 assists, 114 caused turnovers and 99 draw controls in her prep career. Whidden was a two-time All-America and first-team all-state selection, helping lead the Raiders to two state championships and four consecutive seasons of undefeated conference play. As a senior, she was the team captain and was named the Northeast Ohio Defender of the Year. Whidden also played goalie for the Ohio Flames ice hockey club team, which finished second at nationals in 2002, and lettered one year as a goalie on OSHH’s field hockey team.
Ann Elliott Whidden married Nick Whidden in 2017. The couple resides in Boulder.