Column | Pitt lacrosse has met, exceeded expectations in inaugural season


Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

Pitt women’s lacrosse players celebrate after a victory against Akron Monday night.

By Zack Gibney, Senior Staff Writer

As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. But “Rome” in this situation is well ahead of schedule.

Coming into its inaugural season, few had high expectations for Pitt’s lacrosse program. While the idea of a new team on campus was a fun and compelling concept, many expected the rest of the ACC to leave Pitt behind.

That sentiment has since changed.

While head coach Emily Boissonneault and the Panthers are still yet to pick up an ACC win, the team has impressed on several levels. The Panthers sit at 5-6 on the season, and in their losses to Virginia Tech, No. 7 Duke and No. 2 Boston College, the Panthers were either ahead or well within arm’s reach of the lead in each game.

Pitt came up just one goal short in the games against Virginia Tech and No. 7 Duke. The Panthers took Virginia Tech to double overtime at home and nearly knocked off Duke in Durham after holding a 5-4 lead at halftime.

While their record may not reflect it, the Panthers have been far more competitive than many expected them to be — a testament to an effective coaching staff and a promising group of players who refuse to accept their underdog status.

Pitt has a roster of players from a variety of different backgrounds ranging from graduate transfers to former members of the club team. Despite the different journeys, the team has clicked and the results are beginning to show.

Through 11 games, Pitt has two 20-goal scorers in graduate student attacker Paige Petty and sophomore attacker Kate Elam, who have 29 and 20 goals, respectively. Petty has scored five goals on three separate occasions, including once against Virginia Tech — her former school.

Petty, who set Tech’s single-season goals record just three seasons ago, has spearheaded Pitt’s attack throughout the season. After making the move to Pitt, she has picked up right where she left off with the Hokies.

Between the pipes, the Panthers have another contributor who arrived via the transfer portal in graduate student goalkeeper Paulina DiFatta. After attending Fairfield and Elon before her arrival in Pittsburgh, DiFatta cemented herself as the team’s No. 1 goalkeeper. DiFatta started all 11 of Pitt’s games and has a save percentage of .442 so far this season.

Petty and DiFatta are both part of a group of older players who have laid the groundwork for the program’s future. Despite the fact that the program may not contend at a national level while they’re on the roster, it will feel their impact going forward.

There’s something to be said for a months-old program taking some of the nation’s top teams down to the final whistle.

Pitt women’s lacrosse players pose for a photo after their victory against Akron Monday night. (Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer)

Looking toward the remainder of their schedule, the Panthers will face Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame to finish out conference play. They will also travel to Happy Valley to face Penn State on April 12, and George Mason at Highmark Stadium to close out the regular season on April 19.

Aside from the on-field product, the players and coaching staff have created a sense of family within the program. Boissonneault prioritized building a strong culture since taking over the program, and she said the players have bought in.

“I’m super impressed with the team’s commitment to the process. The players understand that the culture piece is more important than anything to me,” Boissonneault said. “That’s going to drive our success. If we don’t have a strong culture, then a lot of the work we are doing doesn’t have the same value.”

In a season full of firsts, the Pitt lacrosse program is showing extremely promising signs for the future. The Panthers’ mentality is a prime reason they’re outperforming expectations for a team that’s only a month and a half old. The team had not played a game before mid-February, but the bond between the players and coaches is something that can define the program going forward.

 “I love every person on this team and I think we do a good job of making everyone feel that,” Boissonneault said. “I really value the community that they’re creating and the family atmosphere … that’s really special.”