HILBERT ANNOUNCES MELISSA GRAHAM AS HEAD WOMEN'S LACROSSE COACH

HILBERT ANNOUNCES MELISSA GRAHAM AS HEAD WOMEN'S LACROSSE COACH

John Czarnecki, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Hilbert College, is pleased to announce that Melissa R. Graham will serve as the women's lacrosse program's fifth head coach, effective immediately.
 
After serving as the Hawks' interim head coach during the 2017 spring season, Graham will assume full responsibility for the continued development and advancement of the women's lacrosse program.
 
The Orchard Park native expanded her role in February 2017 when she stepped-in to serve as the interim coach after the sudden departure of the previous coach.  Graham's association with the program immediately increased the roster size as most of her women's basketball players committed to extending their playing experience under her leadership.
 
"Melissa is a talented young coach who has given everything she has to the Hilbert programs she has worked with'" said Czarnecki.  "It came as no surprise to me that she brought in a plan that would allow her to continue coaching both the basketball and lacrosse teams on top of her administrative duties." 
 
In just the program's first year in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC), the 2017 women's lacrosse team won two NEAC games and became the only conference opponent to beat the 12-2 Penn State Abington Lions, 24-22, in the regular season.  The Hawks, who improved statistically in every category, earned four wins (new program record) while suffering a pair of 3-goal losses, two 1-goal losses and an overtime defeat.  Hilbert, in their fifth season of varsity competition, set multiple Single Season program records and elevated a handful of players into the Top 5 leaders in the All-Time career list.  
 
Coach Graham was named the AMCC Coach of the Year and senior Nikki Schneider and freshman Emily Gawlak were selected to the AMCC First Team All-Conference. Gawlak had a break-out year under Graham's guidance, having also played lacrosse for her at Mt. Mercy Academy in high school.  The South Buffalo native was named the Newcomer of the Year in the AMCC league and garnered both the Newcomer of the Year honor and a spot on the NEAC Second Team All-Conference after she led the entire Division III league with 10.93 draw controls per game.
 
Graham, who led the women's basketball team back to the AMCC play-offs for the first time since 2005-06 after just  her second season at the helm, created a new winning culture and excitement on the hardwood which carried over into the spring season with the lacrosse program.  The Athletics Department honored Graham at the annual end-of-the-year Athletic Awards Reception with the Hilbert College Coach of the Year award.
 
Czarnecki said "we had a great conversation about the philosophies and game plans Melissa has developed and I believe that she is the best fit for the lacrosse team, and she will continue to coach them to new highs over the coming seasons." 
 
Prior to her head coaching responsibilities at the collegiate level and during her two-year graduate assistantship in Hilbert's athletics department (2013-14, 2014-15), Graham led the Mt. Mercy Academy lacrosse program for two seasons. She inherited a program that hadn't won a game in three seasons and took that winless team to a 3rd place finish in the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association at the conclusion of the 2015 season.
 
Graham was a three-sport, 12-varsity letter winner at Mt. Mercy.  She was a member of the girls' soccer, basketball and lacrosse teams prior to her attendance at SUNY Geneseo where she focused strictly on basketball.   Her final high school competition was in the championship lacrosse game of the MMAA in 2009.