Through the first months of its inaugural season, the Dominican University of California women’s lacrosse team was nationally ranked, undefeated, and attracting so much attention that a KTVU Fox Channel 2 crew came to campus and aired a feature on the brand-new program.
The Penguins, coached by Joseph Manna, won their first 11 matches in the Western Women’s Lacrosse League (WWLL), outscoring their opponents 184-61 after defeating Cal Berkeley 23-9 on April 7. En route Dominican beat club teams from much larger schools – including the University of Southern California, the University of Arizona, and Oregon State University – to clinch the top seed in the WWLL Playoffs on April 15-16 at UC San Diego where they had hoped to qualify for the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA) National Tournament in Virginia Beach May 9-12 until they lost their first game of the season in the semifinals to fourth-seeded UCLA.
Still, Dominican, which won the WWLL’s North Conference Division I with a 4-0 record, finished its first season with a 13-1 overall record capped by a 9-5 victory over second-seeded ASU in the third-place game in the WWLL tournament on Sunday.
WATCH KTVU FOX CHANNEL 2 FEATURE ON DOMINICAN'S WOMEN'S LACROSSE TEAM
Coach Manna started recruiting student- athletes for Dominican’s women’s lacrosse program when he was hired as its first head coach in July 2021 by Dominican Athletics. His roster for this season included recruits from Maine, New Jersey, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah, and Nevada as well as student-athletes from California including Marin and Sonoma counties.
Brielle Rapsas, a graduate student in Biological Sciences who came from West Caldwell, NJ to play for the Penguins, has eight goals in eight games. Brielle is also a Geroscience Scholar and researcher at the Buck Institute for Aging in Novato. Dominican has a science partnership with The Buck Institute.
Brielle was interviewed for the KTVU feature along with Coach Manna; Gillie Mason, a sophomore nursing major from Novato’s San Marin High School who transferred to Dominican from Chico State; and Taylor Pieri, a freshman communications major from Petaluma’s Casa Grande High School.
The KTVU story on the Dominican lacrosse team aired during KTVU’s 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts on March 24 and also on KTVU’s SportsWrap at 11:30 p.m. on March 26.
The Penguins, who were ranked as high as No. 16 in the nation this season, were led by business major Brooke Vafi of San Diego, who transferred to Dominican from Colorado Mesa College. During the regular season she led the WWLL in assists. Morgan Newkirk, a freshman business major from El Cajon, lead the team in goals with 34 in 10 games and Olivia Johnson, a freshman from Issaquah, WA, was second in the WWLL in assists behind her teammate Brooke.
Dominican’s goaltending trio of Katherine Chavez, a freshman political science major from North Tustin; Natalie Oyler, a freshman biology major from Meridian Idaho; and Arin Wilson, a freshman education studies major from Altadena, were ranked in the fourth, fifth, and sixth respectively in save percentage in the WWLL.
The Western Women’s Lacrosse League is an association of collegiate club teams in Arizona, California and Nevada using student-athlete eligibility rules. The WWLL is dedicated to the development and promotion of women’s lacrosse in the west.
Photo above is Dominican women's lacrosse player Taylor Pieri.