Credit: Charlie Magovern
Caltech Athletics Welcomes Women's Soccer
The Caltech Athletics program is adding a women's soccer team to its roster, beginning in fall 2017. The move is both in response to direct requests from the community and a desire to further enhance the programming and services provided to an ever-more diverse community.
"The addition of this team offers current and prospective students more choice, making Caltech more appealing as a destination of choice for scholar-athletes," says Joe Shepherd, the vice president for student affairs and C. L. Kelly Johnson Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering.
Caltech currently fields 19 varsity teams, including men's and women's basketball, cross-country, fencing, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and water polo, as well as women's volleyball and men's baseball and soccer. The teams, which draw players from approximately 20 percent of the student body, compete as members of the NCAA Division III and Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). Caltech is the only institution in the SCIAC that does not currently sponsor women's soccer. Over 97 percent of all schools in Division III sponsor women's soccer, with over 10,000 women competing across the country—the highest female participation rate of any sport in Division III.
"I am thrilled to be able to provide this opportunity for the young women who are already enrolled at Caltech and who will be looking to join the campus in future years," says Betsy Mitchell, Caltech's director of athletics, physical education, and recreation. "Women's soccer is one of the fastest growing sports, both nationally and internationally."
At Caltech, female undergraduates are currently eligible to play on the men's soccer team, and, as Mitchell notes, women have played on the team every season since she arrived on campus in 2011. Additionally, Caltech Athletics has previously sponsored women's soccer at the club level.
The decision to create an independent team for these and other female scholar-athletes and to provide them with an opportunity to compete at a collegiate level on a par with many of their colleagues was carefully considered, she said. Factoring into the administration's final decision was the strong interest in the sport both on campus and in the world at large, as well as the availability of field space and a convenient season of competition, among other things. Women's soccer will be the first new addition of a varsity team to the department since women's water polo was added in 2003.
The first step in establishing the women's soccer team will take place this spring, when Athletics plans to hire a coach to build the program while also teaching physical education classes (as does each coach at Caltech). In the fall of 2017, the team will begin play, but with a reduced schedule—likely eight games, one with each team in the conference.