Long-time Heron leader changes women’s lacrosse
In 1971, Pat Genovese P’01, P’03, P’05, P’08 came to Hobart and William Smith fresh out of SUNY Cortland and anxious to begin her first season as coach for the Heron lacrosse and field hockey teams. Nearly 40 years later, Genovese, still a Heron to the core, has coached more than 38 seasons and racked up more career wins than any other lacrosse coach in any collegiate league in the nation-male or female.
Her accolades are impressive: she led both the field hockey and lacrosse teams to the NCAA Championship game during the 1987-88 season and has led the Herons to 18 total post-season bids. A three-time Division III National Coach of the Year, Genovese was inducted into the Western New York Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Heron Hall of Honor in 1999. In 2007, she received the NYSWCAA Service Award for her contributions to women’s athletics. Earlier this year, she became the first women’s lacrosse coach to record 350 wins.
“Pat has had a tremendous impact on the growth of women’s athletics, not only in the state of New York, but across the country,” says William Smith Director of Athletics Deb Steward. “Her record is inspiring to educators, mentors, colleagues and her players. She has made an imprint on William Smith Athletics and on women’s lacrosse in general that will never be erased.”
Truly, Genovese is a statistical force to be reckoned with, on the field and off.
In honor of her leadership and winning record, William Smith women have made gifts toward naming the forthcoming William Smith lacrosse team room in Genovese’s honor.
“When Pat first came to William Smith athletics, she looked more like a student than a coach,” says Laurie Malcolm Tillinghast ’74, P’09, a member of Genovese’s first lacrosse team. “Over time, she made it known that she was the coach and that we needed to take her seriously. She was a great teacher, particularly of lacrosse, as most of us had never played in high school.”
In Tillinghast’s days, “lacrosse was more of a club sport for William Smith,” she remembers, and the women only practiced three or four days each week. But since 1972, when Title IX came into effect, women’s lacrosse has become a different game entirely. These days, Genovese’s players practice six days each week, year-round, and attend frequent team-bonding events.
“My players put 110 percent into this team,” says Genovese, who also serves as the assistant director of William Smith athletics. “They have to be willing to sacrifice their time, and they have to have both drive and motivation to stay strong in their conference during the 17 game season.”
Karin LeBlanc ’09 is currently tearing up the turf under the tutelage of Genovese. LeBlanc, a starting defender, also happens to be Tillinghast’s daughter, making her the second member of the Tillinghast family to play for the only coach the Heron lacrosse team has ever known.
“When I think about the fact that both my daughter and I were coached in the same sport by the same person, it is just so unique and special,” says Tillinghast. “Today’s players, my daughter being one of them, expect success. They are serious about their sport, and their efforts and results prove that.”
The proof is indeed in the win/loss column. Genovese has completed 28 of her 35 seasons with at least a .500 winning percentage and has led her charges to the NCAA tournament 16 times, the NCAA semifinals 11 times and the national championship game five times.
For her part, Genovese feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to mentor two generations of William Smith women and attributes much of her success to the players that have stepped up, set high standards for the program and continue to be leaders on and off the field.
“I give a lot of credit to the players that push each other in practices,” she says. “Those are the kind of players that we need to have on our team and that we need to have more of.”
Though she may be the winningest collegiate lacrosse coach in the business, Tillinghast says that Pat’s legacy is far richer. “She has left many William Smith women with wonderful memories, a strong sense of self-esteem and the values of hard work and team play.”