Lacrosse Coach Leads Team to 4th Consecutive NESCAC Tournament

Holly Wheeler, head women’s lacrosse coach, also coaches women’s soccer.
Posted 05/16/06
Q: Holly, what year did you come to Wesleyan as a lacrosse coach?

A: I arrived at Wesleyan in the fall of 1999, as the part-time coach of the women’s lacrosse team, directly after graduating from college. I had a couple of other jobs until the lacrosse season started in February. The next year, I got the full-time job as the head soccer and lacrosse coach.

Q: Wesleyan ended its lacrosse season April 30 with a winning 9-8 overall record. How does this record compare to the other seven years you have coached?

A: It is always difficult to be happy when your season ends on a loss, but this year’s team did achieve some great things. It is an exciting experience to make the NESCAC tournament, which we did for the fourth consecutive year. We play against the best teams in the country being in the NESCAC, eight of which were ranked at some point this year, and some of which are still playing in the NCAA tournament. Playing against that competition always gets you better. We return most of the team next year which will make for a thrilling year.

Q: Tell me about this year’s lacrosse team. I understand you had seven veterans this year.

A: We returned six starters from last year.. Kate Jones did a nice job in goal, making important saves throughout the season; Becky Meredith, second all-time on the points list at Wesleyan, who scored some big goals this year; and captain, Laura Siegle who has been a ball of fire, racing up and down the field for four years. We lose three seniors this year. They will leave some holes, but I know that the returnees will work hard to fill those gaps, along with the help of a strong class of 2010s.

Q: Please describe the objectives of lacrosse. What other sports can you compare it to?

A: Lacrosse is a lot like many sports. The settled attack and defense is much like basketball and hockey and the midfield is a lot like soccer. The objective is to get the ball in the back of the net and to do that more often than your opponent.

Q: What classes do you teach as an adjunct professor?

A: I teach Beginning Strength Training and Beginning Tennis.

Q: What sports did you play growing up and when did you become serious about lacrosse and soccer? I understand in high school, you were a soccer team captain and qualified for a high-school all-star team that toured England, Scotland and Ireland?

A: I played lots of sports growing up like soccer, basketball, lacrosse, tennis, swimming and football, some of them on teams, most of them in the backyard with my three older brothers. I began playing soccer when I was three and started lacrosse in high school. Because I was a decent athlete, I quickly found success with lacrosse and continued playing and improving in college. I wasn’t quite talented enough to play both sports in college, and as a better lacrosse player, I stuck with that!

Q: At Princeton University, what did you major in?

A: Art history with a certificate in Italian.

Q: At Princeton, you were a starting defender in lacrosse for the Division I Tigers, helping Princeton to capture two Ivy League titles and qualify for the NCAA Division I tournament three times between 1996 and 1999. Do you still play lacrosse competitively anymore or are you focused on coaching?

A: I play on a club team pretty infrequently and in a summer league too—neither of which are too competitive. I play more often before practice, very competitively, with my players. It can get pretty ugly, but it is a great teaching tool and it’s also a way to get the players in order.

Q: What is the Connecticut Cup, and for how long has Wesleyan had the award?

A: The Connecticut Cup has made the rivalry between Connecticut College, Trinity and Wesleyan even fiercer. The Cup has been in Middletown, in my office, often with candy or remote controls, for the past three years.

Q: To you, what makes an ideal lacrosse player?

A: I always tell recruits it is important that they have athletic ability – being fast, agile and strong; the necessary skills and that they are coachable. As long as they are dedicated and willing to work hard, we can take care of the rest.

Q: What months does the lacrosse season span, and when does training begin? Do your student-athletes play other sports?

A: Lacrosse officially begins Feb. 15. That is the first time the team and I can work together. Before that, they work hard on their own and as a team to get ready for the short, upcoming season. We always have a few players who do play another sport.

Q: Are there any special lessons that you stress year to year with your team?

A: I often talk about taking care of the little things, like skills-catching and throwing, fitness, and beyond lacrosse, going to class, being timely and being respectful. These are all lessons that I hope to instill on the lacrosse field, but which apply to situations off it as well.

Q: Tell me about The Lacrosse School, of which you are co-director. What do you hope the girls get from this experience?

A: The Lacrosse School is a camp I run with the Yale lacrosse coach. It is a fun and intense camp for middle school and high school girls. We do a lot of teaching and playing, and often find a number of our recruits there. It is also a great way for high school players to see the Wesleyan campus, be coached by our staff and players, and play against college players. For more information visit

Q: What are your hobbies aside from sports?

A: Right now, one of my hobbies seems to be getting ready for two GLSP classes I will be taking this summer. We already have lots of homework and papers due! I do like to read, so that’s ok. I have a really cool mountain bike, but only have used it in the last few years to bike from my office to the tennis courts for class.

Q: What are some outdoor activities you and your husband, Geoff, enjoy doing with your 1 and 1/2 –year-old son, Sam? Do you think he will be a star athlete too, like mom and dad?

A: Sam is really our biggest and best hobby! When Geoff and I are not coaching, and sometimes when we are, we are with our He is a bundle of joy and we love nothing more than spending lots and lots of time with him. His first word was “ball,” but he also loves to draw on coffee table books, play his little piano and dance.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor