The University of Pittsburgh announced it was adding women’s lacrosse as a varsity sport Nov. 1, 2018 and immediately set out to find an impactful leader who embodies the spirit of the City of Champions to build the program. Pittsburgh was built by tough-minded, gritty, passionate, and innovative thinkers and those traits continue to permeate through the city, its people and its university.
Those traits also run deep in Emily Boissonneault, who was tabbed as the first head coach in Pitt lacrosse history Friday, June 29, 2019. Boissonneault comes to the Panthers with a track record of excellence as a coach and player as well as significant experience in building program’s from scratch.
In addition to her achievements in the world of college lacrosse, Boissonneault is also heavily involved on the international stage helping Team Canada to three silver medals as a player and serving as assistant coach with the Team Canada U19 National Team, which will compete in the 2019 World Championship Aug. 1-10 in Peterborough, Canada.
Prior to accepting the Pitt job, Boissonneault spent the past four seasons at James Madison (2016-19) helping guide the Dukes to three Colonial Athletic Association [CAA] Conference Championships, four NCAA Tournament appearances and the 2018 National Championship. She was hired as an assistant coach with the JMU lacrosse program in July 2015 and was promoted to associate head coach in July 2018. Boissonneault was primarily responsible for running JMU's defensive unit and also served as the program's recruiting coordinator.
JMU reached four consecutive NCAA Championships, which included winning the 2018 National Championship, with Boissonneault on the sidelines. She helped lead the Dukes to a 62-22 (.738), including an impressive 22-2 (.917) mark in CAA play. JMU won each of the past three CAA championships and posted a 5-3 mark in NCAA Tournament play over the past four seasons.
Last season, James Madison posted a 16-4 record, including a 6-0 mark in CAA play, and finished 15th in the final IWLCA Coaches Poll. JMU had three players earn IWLCA All-Region accolades in first team honoree Caroline Sdanowich and second team members Molly Dougherty and Maddie McDaniel. Sdanowich was additionally a top-25 nominee for the Tewaaraton Award and voted CAA Defensive Player of the Year, while Dougherty was CAA Goalkeeper of the Year.
The Dukes ranked fourth nationally in save percentage (.525) and seventh in scoring defense (8.6). They were also 11th in draw control percentage (.593) and 19th in scoring margin (+4.45). JMU allowed fewer than 10 goals in a game 15 times in 2019.
In 2018, the Dukes won a school record 16 regular season games and after capturing the CAA tournament title was awarded the No. 3 seed for the NCAA Tournament. JMU earned NCAA wins against Virginia, No. 6 Florida and No. 2 North Carolina before fending off No. 4 Boston College to win the National Championship. The Dukes finished the season 22-1 overall, including a 6-0 record against teams out of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Haley Warden, JMU's leading defensive midfielder, became the first player in program history to win both CAA Player of the Year (2017) and CAA Defensive Player of the Year (2018) while earning All-America accolades. Defender Rebecca Tooker was an honorable mention All-America selection while she and Caroline Sdanowich were tabbed All-CAA honorees in 2018.
In 2017, JMU was 10th nationally in scoring defense (8.95). JMU also ranked 14th in caused turnovers (10.95). They allowed nearly 1.5 fewer goals from 2016 to 2017 and also had improvements of 3.7 more caused turnovers and almost 5.5 more ground balls per game between years one and two.
The Dukes held opponents to seven goals or less in 10 games and five or fewer in five outings. In the first round of the 2017 NCAA Championship, JMU limited Louisville to only six goals to earn the program's first NCAA victory since 2010.
In her inaugural year in 2016, she helped Caroline Sdanowich make the CAA All-Rookie Team as JMU earned an at-large bid for the NCAA Championship.
Boissonneault began her collegiate coaching career at Winthrop in 2013, where she served as an assistant coach for three years. During the 2015 season, she helped coach the Eagles to a Big South Championship title and the first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. While at Winthrop, she focused on offensive technique and the team's conditioning program. Her duties also included managing weekly practice hours and cutting game and practice film. She also took part in recruiting and meeting with potential players.
Her coaching career began at the club level, where she operated as head coach for the Bloomfield Hills Lacrosse club from 2010-2012 and for the Oshawa Lady Blue Knights under-15 women's field lacrosse team in 2014.
The Ontario native still plays internationally, as she was a member on the 2013 and 2017 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Cup Canadian National Team, as well as the 2017 World Games in Poland. Boissonneault helped guide Team Canada to the silver medals in all three tournaments, marking the best international finishes in Canada's lacrosse history.
Boissonneault also played professionally for the Boston Storm of the United Women's Lacrosse League (UWLX).
During her four-year college career at Detroit, Boissonneault finished with 242 goals, 193 ground balls, 157 caused turnovers and 143 draw controls. Her name is etched in the NCAA lacrosse record books as she ranks in the top 20 in career caused turnovers, caused turnovers per game and career goals. She was named Attacker of the Year for the National Lacrosse Conference in 2009 and Horizon League Woman of the Year in 2012.
Boissonneault graduated from Detroit in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in English and Special Education. She went on to receive her master's degree in Sport and Fitness Administration from Winthrop in 2015.
She and her four younger siblings are all involved in the game. Her sister, Jack, is a Virginia Tech graduate (2015) and was a member of the Hokies' women's lacrosse team.
Boissonneault has experience helping build programs as she was a part of Detroit's inaugural season of women's lacrosse as a player and was an assistant coach at Winthrop in the first season of play. She has guided programs to success at each stop in her career and is well prepares with the poise, confidence, and commitment to do the same at Pitt.
Beyond the Bio
What is your favorite thing to do in the city of Pittsburgh?
My favorite thing to do in Pittsburgh is to explore the difference communities. Between the festivals, museums, restaurants and sports, we always have something new to do.
What is your favorite aspect of working in Pitt's athletic department?
The people! Everyone is engaged in what they're doing and are committed to the future of Pitt Athletics. It's truly a great time to be a Panther!
What do you love most about working in athletics?
The best thing about working in athletics is helping athletes reach their full potential as young women, academically and athletically. These are some of the most impactful years of a young person's life and it is extremely rewarding to be a part of it.
Hobbies outside of work?
Most of my time outside of work I spend with my family and Olive, my beautiful pup. We love being outside and going for long walks around Pittsburgh.