Christina Soderquist runs through the tunnel before a game last season. The Bulldogs open their 2018 at Michigan on Feb. 16. JimmyLafakis/Collegian file photo.
JIMMY LAFAKIS | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
After a season of inscribing their names into Butler lore, the Butler women’s lacrosse team returns to action this year. The Bulldogs completed their first season in program history in 2017.
The Bulldogs finished 1-16 last year, with their lone win coming against Gardner-Webb University.
Last season’s roster included a combination of freshmen, transfers and club lacrosse players. Entrusted to put the pieces together was head coach Cecil Pilson, who previously spent 11 seasons coaching at Mercyhurst University.
“We worked extremely hard last season to emphasize The Butler Way,” Pilson said. “At times, it seemed like we had three distinct groups of players. This year’s team is more like a really big family. It feels like we have one team with one goal to make history again and improve on the past.”
After a winless conference campaign, Butler was picked to finish last in the Big East this year. No. 2 University of Florida, Denver University and Georgetown University were selected as the conference’s top competition.
Kicking off their second season, the Bulldogs are one of the most inexperienced teams in the league, highlighted by a conference-high 23 freshmen.
“With such a young team, we are focusing on player development while emphasizing teamwork,” Pilson said.
“The freshmen have made us step up our game big-time and we are so grateful for that,” junior attacker Adilyn Smith said. “By having them push us, returners have come to see what we are capable of and the immense power of experience in college athletics.”
Smith transferred from the University of Dayton before her sophomore year. She played in 12 games for Butler last year and scored three goals, her first coming in the season opener against Liberty University. Fischbach made 15 starts last season and enjoyed a career day against Marquette University. On that day in Milwaukee, she scooped a season-high four ground balls and caused two turnovers.
A transfer from Bryant University and an Indianapolis native, Hallenbeck started in all 17 matches last year and led the Bulldogs with team-high 26 goals. She also led the team in draw controls and forced turnovers.
A key departure is Madison Christian, who transferred out of Butler. Christian posted 16 goals last year, trailing only Hallenbeck and sophomore attacker/midfielder Journey Fischbeck.
Announcing our 2018 Captains- Haley, Jordan, and Adi are great role models for our program! https://t.co/S3w1Gbz9ld
— Butler Lacrosse (@ButlerWLacrosse) February 8, 2018
“Butler lacrosse is a group of brave people,” Smith, a junior attacker, said. “The coaches left their old lives to begin on this journey and every teammate trusted in a program that is unestablished. We’re gritty, we put the hard work in and we know it’s going to pay off.”
Last year, sophomore midfielder Christina Soderquist got her first taste of college turf. She started 14 games last year and seeks to contribute during her second season.
“I want to bring support and energy to my team,” Soderquist said. “We are playing some tough competition this season and I want to make sure we bring the same fiery energy to every game. We are capable of doing amazing things this year, and I cannot wait to see what we are able to achieve.”
Hewitt, Fischbach, sophomore Nora Byrne and redshirt junior Isabella Curtis are the only returning defenders on the roster. Pilson brought in eight freshmen to add reinforcements on the back line. Freshman defender Emily Chironna was named defensive MVP during her sophomore season in high school, while fellow freshman defender Lindsey McShea helped her team win a state championship in 2017.
Two goalies will compete for playing time. Freshman Amanda Rumsey and sophomore Haley Rayburn are Butler’s options in the net. Rayburn played in 13 games last year and started in nine. She led the team with 74 saves.
Unique stories brought the team together. Junior defender Carly Hewitt joined the team last year after spending her freshman year as a Butler women’s soccer manager. She started all 17 matches and caused 15 turnovers.
“I learned how intense and tenacious this conference is,” Hewitt said. “That helped me grow into a faster and stronger player this year. As a team, I feel that we learned that playing as a unit is key. If we aren’t on the same page, we will not be successful.”
— Butler Lacrosse (@ButlerWLacrosse) January 26, 2018
Hewitt said the Bulldogs are capable of upsetting teams this year.
“I cannot wait to start the upcoming season,” Hewitt said. “I am impressed by the work ethic of our freshman class. Coupled with the experience and knowledge of our returners, that can take us a long way this season.”
The Bulldogs travel to the University of Michigan for their season opener on Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. The first Big East match is scheduled for March 18 against the University of Connecticut at Varsity Field.
Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JJLII30