Butler’s women’s lacrosse team celebrates after scoring a goal against Louisville. The Bulldogs are 1-12 on the season after going 1-16 in their first year. Jimmy Lafakis/Collegian file photo.
JIMMY LAFAKIS | STAFF REPORTER | email@example.com
Success doesn’t happen in a snap. For a brand new Division-I program, it might not manifest itself for years. Such is the case with the Butler University women’s lacrosse team.
“We’re playing against teams that are seasoned and have three, four years under their belts,” head coach Cecil Pilson said. “It takes time in order to grow a program; it just doesn’t happen immediately.”
The team stands at 1-12 after defeating Howard University in March. As a program, Butler has just two wins to its name. Their first victory came against Gardner-Webb University last year to finish the season at 1-16.
Butler Athletics announced the addition of the school’s 20th sport in October 2015 to comply with Title IX. Title IX states that no person in the United States, on the basis of sex, should be excluded from participation in athletic and educational programs. Butler now sports nine men’s athletic teams and 11 women’s athletic teams.
In their second season, the Bulldogs were picked to finish last in the Big East and are currently tied with the University of Cincinnati for 10th. Both teams are 0-5 in conference play.
In lacrosse, the conference includes traditional Big East schools Villanova University, Georgetown University and Marquette University. The University of Cincinnati, the University of Connecticut, the University of Florida, University of Denver, Temple University and Vanderbilt University comprise the rest of the 10-team conference.
Butler ranks last or second-to-last among Big East teams in 11 of 12 statistical categories in conference play, including goals per game, shots on goal and turnovers.
The most positive numbers to draw from is that the team has committed the fewest fouls in the conference (57) and are third in saves per game (9.8).
“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, we have a Division I sport, we’re going to be good,’” Pilson said. “There’s going to be the instant gratification of, ‘We’re going to be really good, really fast.’ And it doesn’t happen that way.”
The Bulldogs recruited a combination of club lacrosse players, freshmen and transfers to form last season’s team.
“They know the process takes time,” Pilson said. “Student-athletes that we recruit understand that and are willing to take that risk. They’re willing to be pioneers, and are willing to make history here as opposed to just being a part of history elsewhere.”
One of those “pioneers” is junior attacker Adilyn Smith. Smith spent her first year of college at the University of Dayton, a school without a women’s lacrosse team. When she saw Butler was adding a team, she transferred for her sophomore year.
“Starting up a team is a unique experience in itself,” Smith said. “Being at a prestigious school is even more exciting.”
When Pilson recruits potential Bulldogs, he sells Butler’s academic piece first.
“In our recruiting world, the number one thing we say look at is, ‘Let me see your transcripts first,” Pilson said. “We’re selling student-athletes. We want them to be students first and athletes second. We want the best athletes we can get, but we also want to recruit students who will be successful at Butler.”
The Bulldogs have relied on a mix of seasoned returners and young talent. Sophomore midfielder Christina Soderquist did not score a goal last year, but has tallied four hat tricks as part of her 17 goals this season.
In the April 4 match against Marquette University, six freshmen started. Four of those freshmen started on attack. One of those starters, Ashley Guerra, has posted a team-high 19 goals on the year.
Pilson said the players’ stick skills and athleticism have increased exponentially since last season.
“We’re still working on the mental piece,” Pilson said. “That’s where the turnovers come from. You have all these superstars from high school coming into college, and you put them up against other teams who have the exact same thing. The only difference is that they have three or four more years of college experience.”
Sophomore midfielder Mary Davide tore her ACL in the fall of 2016 and subsequently filmed practices and games for the team. This season, she has appeared in all 13 matches, earning 12 starts.
Davide said the competitive Big East conference offers both a different tempo and a different style of play than Butler’s non-conference opponents.
“We knew that we needed to come out even harder this year,” Davide said. “We don’t want teams to underestimate us. We want to push for every ground ball. We want to push for every goal.”
Pilson said that in sports, the best record does not always equate to the best team. Smith echoed his sentiments.
“We have so much talent on this team,” Smith said. “But nothing at this level will be handed to anyone.”
Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JJLII30