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Yale University

Yale Athletic Department
P.O. Box 208216 - 20 Tower Parkway New Haven, CT 06511
Division 1 Connecticut Northeast
Private Medium National competitor

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Erica Bamford

Former US National Team member Erica Bamford (née LaGrow) was announced as Yale’s Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women’s Lacrosse on July 1, 2015. She has led Yale to back-to-back appearances in the Ivy League Tournament championship game. The Bulldogs were ranked as high as No. 13 in the national poll in 2023.


In 2022 Bamford led Yale to a memorable season. The Bulldogs' win total (11) was their best since 2008. That included a five-game winning streak, the team's longest within a season since 2014. They tied the school record for Ivy League wins in a season (six) and earned a spot in the Ivy League Tournament for the first time. They went on to beat Cornell for their first Ivy League Tournament win.


The season featured several milestone victories, including the team's first win vs. Penn since 2004, the team's first win at Cornell since 2004 and the team's first win vs. Dartmouth since 2015. The Bulldogs earned a national ranking and set the school records for goals (211, breaking the record of 205 set in 2017) and draw controls (248, breaking the record of 243 set in 2019). The team's second-place finish in the Ivy League represented their best finish in the standings since 2007.


The early part of Bamford's tenure in New Haven saw the Bulldogs make a number of strides. In her first season they were in contention for a spot in the Ivy League Tournament until the final game, and they saw year-to-year improvements in their shooting percentage, free position shooting percentage, draw controls, clears and save percentage. In her second season, 2017, the team broke the school records for goals in a season, points in a season and draw controls in a season. Yale also beat a ranked opponent for the first time since 2010. In 2018 the Bulldogs beat a pair of ranked opponents and had the second-most draw controls in program history (230). The 2020 team was off to a 4-2 start before the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancelation of the season.


In Bamford's time in New Haven, Yale has had five All-Region honorees, two All-ECAC honorees, 25 All-Ivy League selections and one finalist for the Yeardley Reynolds Love Unsung Hero Award.


The Bulldogs have excelled in the classroom, earning the IWLCA Academic Merit Squad honor for the top GPA in the country in 2018 and 2019 while also earning IWLCA Academic Honor Squad recognition in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023.


Prior to joining the Bulldogs, Bamford spent seven years as an assistant coach at Florida. She helped the Gators make five straight NCAA Tournament appearances, win five regular season conference championships and win three conference tournament championships. She also has a gold medal from the Women’s World Cup during her time playing with the National Team.


At Florida Bamford worked under former Yale head coach Amanda O’Leary, a US Lacrosse Hall of Fame member who has earned a pair of national coach of the year honors. Bamford was the Gators’ offensive coordinator and helped the team lead the nation in goals with 326 in her final season -- the fourth straight season the Gators scored at least 310 goals and finished in the top five nationally in scoring offense.


Bamford graduated with honors from North Carolina in 2008, earning a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science. She was a part of four straight NCAA quarterfinal appearances for the Tar Heels. In her senior season she scored 24 goals, was named second team All-South Region for the second time and was named first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference. A four-year starter at midfield, she was on the conference honor roll every year. She also earned All-ACC Academic honors twice, and received the University of North Carolina Athletics Director’s Scholar-Athlete Award for excellence in academics and athletics.


In addition to her standout collegiate career, Bamford was also a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team from 2007-2012. In the summer of 2009, she helped the U.S. win gold at the Federation of International Lacrosse Women’s World Cup in Prague. Additionally, she was a member of the touring team that captured the 2008 Prague Cup.


Bamford remains active in the game at the national level. She serves as a selector for the U.S. Women's National Team and also coaches and selects for the National Team Development Program.


Bamford is a native of Skaneateles, N.Y., and attended Christian Brothers Academy. Since 2004 she has been coaching at various levels, including four summers as a volunteer coach at the Star-Riders Lacrosse Club in Central New York. She also provided a five day multi-sport camp for school age children in rural Honduras in 2010, and has been an active member of the Big Brother Big Sister program since 2005. In 2022 she was inducted into the Upstate Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

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Colleen Smith

Colleen Smith, an All-American defender at Princeton, joined the Yale women’s lacrosse staff as an assistant coach in the summer of 2016. Smith has helped the Bulldogs to back-to-back appearances in the Ivy League Tournament championship game in 2022 and 2023.


In 2022 Smith helped Yale to a memorable season that featured several milestone victories, including the team's first win vs. Penn since 2004, the team's first win at Cornell since 2004 and the team's first win vs. Dartmouth since 2015. The Bulldogs earned a national ranking and set the school records for goals (211, breaking the record of 205 set in 2017) and draw controls (248, breaking the record of 243 set in 2019). The team's second-place finish in the Ivy League represented a dramatic improvement from their most recent finish (tied for sixth in the league in 2019).


The Bulldogs' 11 overall wins in 2022 were their most since 2008 (11-5). That included a five-game winning streak, the team's longest within a season since 2014. They tied the school record for Ivy League wins in a season (six) and earned a spot in the Ivy League Tournament for the first time. They went on to beat Cornell for their first Ivy League Tournament win.


In Smith's first season, she helped the program make strides, as the Bulldogs set school records for goals, points and draw controls in a season. They also beat a ranked opponent for the first time since 2010. In her second season, the Bulldogs beat a pair of ranked opponents. In 2020, Yale was off to a 4-2 start before the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancelation of the season.


Smith was a part of three NCAA tournament appearances at Princeton, including a 16-13 upset of No. 8 Penn State in her senior season (2014). That season she was named second team All-American, first team All-Mid Atlantic region, an ECAC All-Star and unanimous first team All-Ivy League. She also earned Princeton’s Connie McAllister Award and was a finalist for the Yeardley Reynolds Love Unsung Hero Award, reflecting her work ethic and leadership skills.


Smith was co-captain of the Tigers in 2014, finishing second on the team in caused turnovers with 14 and adding 17 draw controls and 13 ground balls. The team limited Ivy opponents to just 7.64 goals per game (second in the league). She also tallied her first career point that year with a goal against No. 14 Georgetown.


After playing with the Timperley Lacrosse Club of Manchester, England, in 2014-15, Smith spent 2015-16 at UC-Davis, working primarily with the defense. She helped the Aggies earn their first trip to the MPSF tournament in six years and their first winning record in conference play since 2000.


A Wilmette, Ill., native, Smith graduated from Loyola Academy -- the same high school as Yale's other assistant coach, Molly Palella. She majored in psychology at Princeton.

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Molly Palella

Molly Palella (née Hulseman), who played in the NCAA Tournament four times while at Loyola, joined the Yale women’s lacrosse staff as an assistant coach in the summer of 2017. A native of Chicago, Ill., she attended Loyola Academy -- the same high school as Yale’s other assistant coach, Colleen Smith. The Yale staff has led the Bulldogs to back-to-back appearances in the Ivy League Tournament championship game in 2022 and 2023.


In 2022 Palella helped Yale to a memorable season that featured several milestone victories, including the team's first win vs. Penn since 2004, the team's first win at Cornell since 2004 and the team's first win vs. Dartmouth since 2015. The Bulldogs earned a national ranking and set the school records for goals (211, breaking the record of 205 set in 2017) and draw controls (248, breaking the record of 243 set in 2019). The team's second-place finish in the Ivy League represented a dramatic improvement from their most recent finish (tied for sixth in the league in 2019).


The Bulldogs' 11 overall wins in 2022 were their most since 2008 (11-5). That included a five-game winning streak, the team's longest within a season since 2014. They tied the school record for Ivy League wins in a season (six) and earned a spot in the Ivy League Tournament for the first time. They went on to beat Cornell for their first Ivy League Tournament win.


Palella works extensively with Yale's draw control unit. In her first season, she helped Izzy Nixon lead the Ivy League in draw controls per game, setting the Yale single-season record in the process.


Palella spent two seasons as an assistant at Michigan, where she worked primarily with the defense and draw control specialists. In her final season -- the Wolverines’ fourth as a varsity program -- they set the school record for draws (244), making a dramatic improvement from their total the previous season (189).


Palella’s stint at Michigan came on the heels of a successful playing career at Loyola, where she was a four-year starter and totaled 70 goals along with 29 assists. The Greyhounds went 58-26 during her tenure, advancing as far as the NCAA quarterfinals in her senior year. They won the Big East regular season championship in 2012 and then won Patriot League championships in 2014 and 2015. An attacker/midfielder, Palella was the recipient of the team’s Reverend Francis J. McManamin Unsung Hero Award as a senior.


During her time at Loyola, Palella assisted with several camps and clinics and was also member of Loyola's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology in May 2015.


Palella has also served as a coach, personal trainer, tournament coordinator and camp counselor for Sports Made Personal in Chicago, Ill., since 2009. In that role, she has trained girls from ages 6-19 at varying levels of ability. She was also the head coach of two age groups for the Team One Lacrosse Club in Chicago.

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