Lacrosse will play their first game of the season on Friday, Feb. 9 against Central Michigan. Photo by Jonathan Wang.
JULIA LORELLI | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
After a 5-10 season in 2023, women’s lacrosse is looking to improve with a team full of new players and ambitions. Junior Gabby Mahaffey transferred from Akron to Butler. She will be added to the roster alongside five first-years: Ava Clemson, Ireland Costigan, Emily Eckert, Sophia Knoblock and Mila Navarro.
Costigan came to Butler all the way from Ontario, Canada. While she did not know exactly what she was looking for at first, the coaching staff and the size of Butler made her decide to become a Bulldog.
“When I did go through the recruiting process, I kind of realized that I wanted somewhat of a smaller school, but one that had a bigger feel to it,” Costigan said. “After doing my research and then getting in contact with all the coaches and then coming on campus, that’s when I ended up choosing Butler.”
Eckert came to Butler to continue to work on her skills. She was working on draw control and found the support she wanted at Butler.
“Coach [Maggie Zentgraf] is very good at trying to find time to teach us how to watch film on draws,” Eckert said. “And we’ve been working on a lot of brute strength activity, [using] buckets of rice and stick skills and such.”
Eckert said that the transition from high school to college lacrosse is a challenge as the players have to play at a faster pace than they are used to. Being a part of a smaller college team allows players to practice more and build strong bonds with teammates.
“I think the girls and the team culture are so special, and I don’t think you find that many places in collegiate sports,” Eckert said. “I think just having the girls on the team [was] the easiest part about coming in.”
The team has incorporated new talent along with the leadership skills of seniors and fifth-year players. The older players have welcomed the first-years with open arms.
Senior captain Leah Rubino is excited to be a leader for a tight-knit group of girls. She said she wants to be a better role model to the new players than she had when she started at Butler by communicating with them more.
“It’s a lot of responsibility,” Rubino said. “But I think having such an amazing group of girls makes it really easy, a little more straightforward than normal. I think just talking to people is the best way to support them. Listening is the biggest way you can connect with people and I think creating those genuine connections makes you a better leader.”
Rubino was an All-Big East First Team selection last season and finished 10th in the Big East with an average of 2.33 goals per game. She led Butler with 35 goals, 40 points, 55 shots, 50 shots on goal, 27 ground balls, 49 draw controls and 16 caused turnovers. She also netted a program-record seven goals in one game vs. Eastern Michigan and scored 21 goals over five consecutive games. Rubino was also named to the 2024 Preseason All-Big East First Team.
Rubino’s experience, especially in conference play, will provide her with the tools needed to lead her first-year teammates.
The team is enthusiastic about their upcoming schedule, especially for games against tough opponents such as Notre Dame, UConn, Villanova, Georgetown and Denver.
Maggie Zentgraf, who was a standout player at Notre Dame, is entering her second season as head coach. Zentgraf has several expectations for her team but knows they can play up to them.
“My expectation for this team is to play more confidently than we have in the past, kind of with a chip on our shoulder,” Zentgraf said. “I think that that just makes for a better experience all around on game day…We have a fun team, small but very mighty.”