Enthusiasm certainly wasn't lacking Monday afternoon at the University of Colorado.

Chancellor Philip DiStefano and athletic director Mike Bohn beamed as they introduced women's lacrosse coach Ann Elliott, who couldn't hide her excitement about leading CU's newest team.

"Building a program from the ground up has always been a dream of mine," she said. "To come out here to Colorado, to CU, it's an incredible opportunity for me."

Women's lacrosse will become CU's 17th intercollegiate sport when it begins play in the spring of 2014. It's the first time CU has added a sport in 16 years, DiStefano said.

In Elliott, the Buffaloes believe they've got the ideal coach to help CU capitalize on a rapidly expanding sport.

"You start thinking about passion for the sport," Bohn said about the search for a head coach. "You start thinking about someone who eats, drinks and dreams lacrosse and I think that we've found that coach."

Bohn and his staff brought four candidates to Boulder for interviews. Bohn cited character, poise and competitive spirit, in addition to "shared values with the institution" as reasons why Elliott was hired.

Elliott certainly has a winning pedigree. Just 27, she's already been a part of five national championships at the collegiate level. As a player at Northwestern, from 2004-07, she helped the Wildcats to a 77-5 overall record and three national championships.

She is currently in her fourth season as an assistant for legendary Wildcats coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. As of today, the Wildcats are 9-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country. They are 73-4 overall with two national championships during Elliott's tenure as an assistant coach.

Ann Elliott was named the first women’s lacrosse head coach in Colorado Buffs history on Monday.
Ann Elliott was named the first women's lacrosse head coach in Colorado Buffs history on Monday. ( Jeremy Papasso )

"I have a lot of confidence coming from that program to know that this is something I can do and understand that it's a process," Elliott said. "It's going to take a lot of work on all ends, but it's going to be exciting and it's fun."

Part of the enthusiasm stems from the fact that the state of Colorado has proven itself to be a lacrosse hotbed.

Nearly 50 high schools sponsor girls lacrosse teams and many of the top prep players wind up with Division I scholarships.

At the college level, the University of Denver is currently ranked No. 10 in the country in men's lacrosse. DU, Regis and Air Force already field women's teams.

"I think it's a tremendous sport and I think people are just becoming more and more aware of it everywhere," Elliott said.

An existing lacrosse fan base, as well as curiosity about the sport, is sure to benefit CU in the early going. Elliott also relishes the opportunity to take the sport to the Boulder community and increase the fan base before the Buffs even set foot on the field.

"I want to be as involved in the community as possible," she said. "To be able to share it with the community is going to be a huge priority of mine. Whether it's explaining the rules or actually coaching, any bit of it I'm looking forward to doing."

CU is hoping to gain a following on television, as well.

"Given lacrosse's popularity, I believe CU and our four Pac-12 lacrosse counterparts are going to get plenty of air time on the new Pac-12 network," DiStefano said.

Currently, Stanford, California and Oregon are the only Pac-12 schools with women's lacrosse teams. Southern Cal added the sport in 2010 and will begin play next year. CU will join its Pac-12 mates in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. In addition to the Pac-12 schools, the MPSF includes DU, Fresno State, San Diego State and St. Mary's (Calif.).

Joining the MPSF and fielding a women's lacrosse team for the first time is something Elliott and the rest of the CU athletic department is eagerly anticipating.

"I think there's something very special about being the first program, the first head coach and really being able to establish that culture, that foundation on which a program can build for several years after," she said.

For Elliott, it's been quite a journey to this point.

Growing up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland, she participated in several sports before discovering lacrosse as an eighth grader. She then flourished in high school before becoming a star defender at Northwestern, which was a young program at the time of her arrival. She's also experienced success as a coach, including helping New Trier High School to a 2008 Illinois state championship.

Now, she's ready to see the birth of the CU program and, hopefully, the success of the CU program.

"I've learned it's really about the small things, building a culture that everyone is kind of buying into the same principles," she said. "I know how special it is to be a part of that first national championship, to see something grow into a national championship contender and to have to pride in all the hard work it takes."