Lacrosse opens fall slate with playday vs. Duquesne


Hannah Wilson | Staff Photographer

First year midfielder Talia Zuco (19) and Dylana Williams (51). Pitt women’s lacrosse broke into its new venue at Highmark Stadium on Sunday morning with its first-ever playday against the Duquesne Dukes.

By Alexander Ganias, Staff Writer

As the sun rose over the Pittsburgh skyline, Pitt made history at Highmark Stadium. 

The women’s lacrosse team broke in its new home venue bright and early Sunday morning with their first ever interscholastic competition — a playday against the Duquesne Dukes. 

It has already been a big year for the Panthers, and this playday was the culmination of a years-long effort to bring Division I Lacrosse to Pitt. Pitt’s newest program played its first scrimmage on Mar. 5 against Slippery Rock University, and held its first official varsity practice on Sept. 6 at the Pitt Sports Dome. Pitt signed a multi-year deal with Highmark Stadium a week later — securing a home field for the immediate future.

Pitt announced it would add a women’s lacrosse program in November 2018. For some players, like sophomore goalkeeper Riley Patrick, getting on the field was a long time coming.

“I didn’t have my [high school] senior year lacrosse season, so I haven’t played a game in like two years,” she said. “It just feels surreal, it’s amazing now.”

The playday consisted of three scrimmages. To make this possible, the Panthers were split up into two teams — a blue team and a white team. The first of these scrimmages started at 9 a.m., and featured the Dukes against the Pitt blue team. A running clock timed each game and there was no record of stats other than goals scored.

Despite the first scrimmage starting very early in the morning, fans from both schools filled up the stands, and there were even a few tailgaters, according to both head coaches.

The Pitt blue team held their own against the Dukes, getting opportunities on offense and forcing a few turnovers on defense. But Duquesne — who has fielded a women’s lacrosse team every year since 1997 — outplayed the upstart Panthers. Head coach Emily Boissonneault said she expected that result.

“I think they played exactly how we imagined,” she said. “I think we had some really great moments and some moments we could work on, but we’re going to continue to push each other to prepare for our season.”

The second scrimmage pitted both Pitt teams against each other, and started at 10:45 a.m. The white team consisted of mostly graduate students, such as defender Therese Pitman and midfielder Chloe Jones. Meanwhile, the blue team consisted of mainly the underclassmen, like Patrick and fellow sophomore goalkeeper Gabriella Turano.

Unlike the other two scrimmages, the scorekeepers recorded the goals scored in this match, and the final tally reflected a stark skill disparity between the two Pitt sides. The white team scored first and the blue team would match it not much later. After that however, the white team would outscore their younger counterparts 16-2 the rest of the match — with a final 17-3 score.

Boissonneault noted that the field was a bit smaller than a normal lacrosse field, but didn’t expect her team to change their approach.

“We played on a shorter field today, but we’ll play on a full-size field in season,” she said. “It shouldn’t have a huge effect on the way that we play.”

The final scrimmage put Duquesne back on the field to face the Pitt white team. The Panthers stood more of a chance against the Dukes, but the Dukes played like a program nearly 25 years older than their counterparts. Pitt picked up the intensity in the second quarter, but Duquesne came right back in the third with a couple of unanswered goals. The fourth quarter stayed competitive, but the Panthers couldn’t match up with the Dukes. 

Duquesne head coach Corinne Desrosiers expressed excitement for the possibility of a regular City-Game matchup.

“I want this to be our city game every year,” she said. “I’d love to open the season every year with Duquesne-Pitt, the two DI teams actually in Pittsburgh.”

Patrick shared the same sentiment, but she also explained the challenge within the Panther’s own conference.

“I mean, we have a lot of rivalries going into the ACC,” she said. “But Duquesne will be a big opener in the spring.”

Pitt will travel to nearby Moon Township for their next playday at Robert Morris University on Oct. 2.