Calling it an “opportunity of a lifetime,” Niskayuna native Kayla Treanor eagerly accepted the chance to become the leader of the Syracuse University women’s lacrosse program she starred for several years ago.
Describing herself as “really lucky” and “very thankful,” the 27-year-old Treanor, who graduated from Niskayuna High School in 2012 and from Syracuse in 2016, was introduced Wednesday as the Orange’s replacement for Gary Gait who shifted earlier this offseason from coaching Syracuse’s women’s program to its men’s team.
“Not many coaches get to come back and coach where they played,” Treanor said during Wednesday’s introductory press conference, which was held at Manley Field House and streamed online.
But few people — if any, really — possess a resume similar to Treanor’s in terms of playing and coaching success at such a young age. After starring at Niskayuna High School, Treanor produced one of the greatest NCAA women’s lacrosse careers and has achieved international success with Team USA. In the coaching ranks, Treanor has worked at both Harvard and Boston College, and served as the associate head coach for this past season’s Boston College squad that won the national championship in a matchup against Syracuse.
“In a relatively short time, Kayla’s achieved, frankly, what many fail to accomplish in their entire career,” Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack said. “Her knowledge, passion and commitment to women’s lacrosse is unsurpassed.”
Treanor’s coaching career started after she put together one of the most-accomplished careers in women’s lacrosse history. Treanor’s 393 career points is No. 2 all-time at Syracuse and No. 7 all-time in NCAA history, and her 260 career goals ranks No. 1 at Syracuse. A three-time Tewaaraton Award finalist and ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Treanor was also a four-time IWLCA first-team All-America selection and a three-time IWLCA Attacker of the Year.
Prior to her time at Syracuse, Treanor starred at Niskayuna. During her high school career, Treanor climbed to the top of the school’s all-time scoring list, was a three-time US Lacrosse All-American and was a key part of three Section II championship teams while playing alongside her older sister Alyssa Treanor. Niskayuna won Class B titles when Kayla Treanor was a freshman and sophomore, and the Silver Warriors earned the Class A crown during her junior season. Treanor scored the game-winning goal in a 15-14 victory over Guilderland in that 2011 title game when Niskayuna ended Guilderland’s 80-game win streak against Section II teams.
Along the way, the younger daughter of Mark Treanor and Janice Treanor earned a reputation that her mother and father cared more about, one of “just a good kid” who was class president as a high school senior.
“She’s so wonderful — down to earth, normal,” said Alexis Licht, Niskayuna’s current girls’ lacrosse head coach, who often hired the Treanor sisters to baby-sit her two children. “She’s a phenomenal player and now she’s a great coach, but you wouldn’t know it because she’s so humble.”
And she’s been extremely busy, especially in the last few weeks as she went from winning a national championship to becoming a candidate for the vacant Syracuse job — and, also, participating in tryouts for the U.S. team that will compete in next year’s World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship.
“It’s really been busy, ever since Memorial Day,” Mark Treanor said of his younger daughter’s recent schedule. “It was crazy. They won the national championship, shortly after that was when Gary Gait made his announcement that he was going to the men’s side — and, then, it got a little crazier.”
Initially, there was a report that Kayla Treanor was offered the position at Syracuse, but had turned it down. Mark Treanor said that was “100%” incorrect, but that the Treanor family didn’t mind the report.
“That helped keep the speculation down,” Mark Treanor said.
In the last week, the challenge became to keep excitement from becoming public. While Syracuse announced Kayla Treanor’s hire on Wednesday, her parents said she was offered — and accepted — the job nearly a week ago. The time in between accepting the job and its public announcement, though, gave Kayla Treanor the chance to inform the players on head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein’s team — including championship-winning goalie Rachel Hall, who attended Niskayuna schools as a youngster before moving to Texas — that she wouldn’t be back with the Boston College program for the 2022 season.
“Her biggest priority [in leading up to Wednesday] was speaking to every girl on the [Boston College] team,” said Janice Treanor, who works as a Public Employees Federation representative. “I know that was emotional for her.”
Wednesday, though, was celebratory. While riding out to Syracuse for Wednesday’s press conference along with his wife and 3-year-old granddaughter Gracie Lou, Mark Treanor — who worked for Niskayuna schools for 34 years before retiring, and also coached the school’s boys’ basketball team for two decades — said it was remarkable how quickly, and perfectly, things played out that allowed for Kayla Treanor to secure her dream job.
“Sometimes,” he said, “the stars come together.”
At the college where she starred and began her relationship with boyfriend Clay Cleveland — a former Syracuse football player — Kayla Treanor said she has two goals as women’s lacrosse coach. She wants to deliver Syracuse its first NCAA tournament championship in the sport, and wants to make sure her players enjoy their time at the school as much as she did from 2012 to 2016.
“I want the student-athletes to come here and love their experience,” Treanor said. “I want them to leave and say the same things I did, that this was the greatest four years of their life. I want them to laugh, I want them to dance, I want them to really just have amazing friendships, and relationships with people in the community.”
If she is ready to lead one of the college landscape’s top women’s lacrosse programs, Treanor said, is a “question I’ve gotten quite a bit” in recent days. Describing herself as a “coach’s kid,” though, the 27-year-old had her answer.
“I am ready,” Treanor said. “This is an opportunity that I’ve wanted for a long time. It’s not something that’s just stumbled upon. I’ve been working for this my whole life.”
Sportswriter Jim Schiltz contributed to this report.