‘Strong foundations’ and ‘high expectations’ for Pitt lacrosse heading into second season


Ethan Shulman | Staff Photographer

Pitt junior Madigan Lublin (2) runs after a Duquesne player during Sunday’s game at Rooney Field.

By Ben Pisano, Staff Writer

The Panthers showed promise in all of their matchups, outscoring their opponents in scrimmages against the Duquesne Dukes, the Youngstown State Penguins as well as a half-scrimmage against the Akron Zips.

 The Panthers have high aspirations for the upcoming season. As the women’s lacrosse program enters its second year, Head Coach Emily Boissonneault hopes to improve on their record and contend among the longer-tenured programs in the ACC.

“Last year we had a lot of young players, a lot of freshmen. And then on the opposite end, we had a lot of transfers and fifth-years,” Boissonneault said. “We took a lot of time trying to build the confidence of our younger players and develop our chemistry as a team.”

If there’s one thing this team has in abundance, it’s chemistry. As soon as the exhibitions started, encouraging cheers from the sideline inundated the crisp morning air at Rooney Field. Panthers punctuated every save, check, turnover, shot and goal with supportive words to their teammates.

According to senior Abby Thorne, this sense of family and connection is a major factor in what makes this team special. 

“We’re with each other all of the time,” Thorne said. “It’s my family away from home because it’s not so easy for me to get home.”

A native of Australia, Thorne came to Pitt for the opportunity to play lacrosse — a game she’s played since she was 11 years old — at the collegiate level. Prior to her time with the Panthers, Thorne was a member of the U18 and U19 Australian national teams. 

During the 2022 season, Thorne started all 18 games and was a key part of the Panther defense, racking up 28 ground balls and 16 caused turnovers. For 2023, Thorne is excited at the prospect of building a foundation of excellence for the future of the program.

“We have a very young team this year, which is awesome,” Thorne said. “Because we’re able to build that foundation with the girls that we’re going to be with for the next three years. The intensity and the work ethic that we have been practicing at already is just beyond what we had last year.”

While a lot of last year’s team graduated, the Panthers got some notable additions in the offseason. Senior attacker Camdyn O’Donnell transferred to Pitt for the opportunity to play in a Power Five conference after seeing the success of the new program. 

“I saw that Pittsburgh had a new program and I saw that they’re in the ACC, and then their first year they did pretty well,” O’Donnell said. “And then I decided to go in the transfer portal and I knew right away that [Pitt’s] where I wanted to go.”

O’Donnell impressed during her time at San Diego State with a seven-goal performance against the Marquette University Golden Eagles. Hailing from sunny San Diego, California, O’Donnell is a natural fit for the tight-knit familial culture that the Pitt women’s lacrosse team has cultivated.   

“The best thing about this team is that everyone loves Pittsburgh and loves being on this team and takes nothing for granted. With Pittsburgh, it’s definitely the steel mentality,” O’Donnell said. “And that’s what we have.”

The Panthers showcased this steel mentality in the third quarter of their exhibition vs Youngstown State. Although they entered the quarter down to the Penguins 4-3, the Panthers rallied offensively and defensively, scoring five goals and allowing none. Pitt took the lead and never gave it back.

According to Boissonneault, these fall exhibition games provide the team with a chance to perfect their craft and improve on last year’s record. The team finished the 2022 season with a record of 9-10. Most of Pitt’s struggles came from within the ACC, with a conference record of 1-7. The team’s sole win came from a home bout against the University of Louisville Cardinals.

“I think we have a lot of potential to improve our record from last year and that’s really what we’re looking to do, ” Boissoneault said. “We created a strong foundation. Now we just have to build off of it.”

Pitt will travel across the state to Philadelphia for their next play day at the University of Pennsylvania on Oct. 23.