When one thinks of Virginia lacrosse, the first name that comes to mind is Julie Myers. She led the Cavalier women’s lacrosse team for the past 28 seasons and never once failed to qualify for postseason play — a massively impressive achievement. Accounting for Myers’ years as a player and assistant coach, she had been with Virginia for 37 years. Myers is synonymous with winning — and therefore, so were the Cavaliers. So after Meyer announced her departure from athletics, a giant hole opened at the University.
“While it is hard to leave a place and people that you love so deeply, I am excited to explore leadership opportunities outside of athletics,” Myers, now the CEO of the One Love Foundation, said.
Replacing one of the all-time best across all of Virginia athletics is clearly a difficult task — but less than two weeks later, Athletic Director Carla Williams named Sonia LaMonica the fourth coach in program history. Only a few months into her tenure, LaMonica has done admirable work despite losing star senior attack Rachel Clark to conference rival Boston College. Attack Ashlyn McGovern has exhausted her eligibility and will be departing as well. The first step for LaMonica was acknowledging her predecessor and making sure she maintained the high standards set.
“I have the utmost respect for Julie,” LaMonica said. “I feel honored to step into this role and continue to build on what she has done.”
Williams certainly has faith in LaMonica’s ability to lead both on and off the field, commenting as such in her inaugural announcement of the hire.
“[LaMonica’s] teams are tough, skilled and disciplined and Towson has competed with the best in women’s lacrosse throughout her career,” Williams said. “She is a wonderful person, coach and role model and she will be an amazing addition to our department and coaching roster.”
As a player, LaMonica led Australia to a gold medal at the 2005 World Championships, while also leading Maryland to the 2000 and 2001 NCAA championships. She was named first team All-American after her senior season as well, and recorded a total of 111 goals and 55 assists across a legendary collegiate career.
At Towson, LaMonica led the team to a 139-91 record over 13 years, qualifying for the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament Championship game nine times and winning four championships in the process while also qualifying for the NCAA tournament seven times. She was honored as CAA Coach of the Year an incredible five times. Securing her as the new leader of Virginia women’s lacrosse is a massive win for Williams.
“I am eagerly anticipating the chance to work with these extraordinary student-athletes and further cultivate and solidify a winning culture at this wonderful, dynamic University,” LaMonica said.
Her husband, Michael LaMonica, was a Maryland standout as well — starting all four years at midfield. He will join his wife’s staff as an assistant coach. An additional connection to the state of Maryland, Sonia is the coach of the Baltimore Brave of the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League, where she won the title in 2019.
LaMonica will have the opportunity to make her mark on the program early, as freshmen make up a quarter of the 2024 roster. With the exception of two brutal conference losses on the road at Syracuse and Boston College — both teams that made the national semifinals and also earned top-four overall postseason seeding — the Cavaliers rarely lost a game by more than two goals in 2023.
“I connected with many of the players on the team and the newcomers that will be entering,” LaMonica said. “I can feel their excitement and eagerness to get back this fall, and they’re driven to go the distance.”
Excluding the pandemic-shortened season, LaMonica only had a single season with a winning percentage under 50 percent at Towson. For a Virginia program that has seen such consistency under Myers, a past with LaMonica’s stability had to be appealing for the Cavaliers.
Virginia returns a couple of veteran players, including senior attack Morgan Schwab — who recorded five goals in a single game against Duke. She was statistically the team’s best passer, which LaMonica will gladly deploy at length in 2024. After that, however, the starting lineup has the potential to be wide open, especially after leading scorer Rachel Clark entered the transfer portal.
“That’s where it is exciting,” LaMonica said, referring to the uncertainty of the depth chart. “Everyone can feel like it is a clean slate and an opportunity, and I think that is where you can see the best out of your athletes. It’s a fresh set of eyes.”
While the Cavaliers will certainly be eager to advance further than a first-round exit in the postseason this year, LaMonica also sees the bigger picture about building a program and not just a single team.
“We are a people business,” LaMonica said. “Talent matters, but culture wins. Your culture is created by great people who come from great families.”