Three new captains set to guide Pitt lacrosse into unpredictable sophomore season


Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

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

By Richie Smiechowski, Sports Editor

For a second-year program, Pitt women’s lacrosse is an unsurprisingly young team that lacks college-level game time. 

The team doesn’t lack talent, but after graduating 13 players following their first season — many of whom had years of Division I experience — the buildup to their second season surprisingly feels more like a “building year” than their inaugural campaign did. 

Last year’s group of transfer seniors set a very high bar for the program, which even received top 25 votes at the end of the season. Without them, an almost entirely new set of fresh faces within the program will try and further that legacy in 2023, and it starts with the team’s three new captains

Junior defender Abby Thorne is the most tenured of the three captains, and is the only one who donned the blue and gold in action last season. She started all 18 games on defense for Pitt, finishing third-best on the team in both ground balls and forced turnovers with 28 and 16 respectively. 

According to head coach Emily Boissonneault, Thorne brings an exceptional amount of experience in comparison to her peers, in both her time playing for the Australian National Team and as a part of Pitt’s “original 14.” 

“Abby came in pretty mature as an athlete with a little bit more experience compared to some of our younger athletes, or even her teammates that are the same age,” Boissonneault said. “She’s shown tremendous growth, she’s one of the hardest workers on the team and was an extremely reliable defender last year, and so we’re really looking towards her to help some of our younger players grow into the role she established for us last year.”

According to Thorne, she takes pride in being a member of the original 14, acknowledging the significance of her role as one of the six remaining players from that group. Looking at the rest of the team, Thorne said her class and the current sophomore class are especially close.

“The sophomore class that came in last year as freshman was a huge class, there were about 15 of them,” Thorne said. “I’d say that we’re the most connected out of anyone, which is obviously a massive chunk of the team… It’s awesome, we have a solid foundation of players who just love and care for each other, and the transfers have come in and been huge, and connected really well with the team.”

One of those new transfers in particular is gelling especially well with the rest of the team. Despite spending less than a full year with the Panthers, senior attacker Camdyn O’Donnell made a strong impression early, earning a captain position without ever playing a game at Pitt. 

While O’Donnell might not have experience donning the blue and gold, she’s one of the most accomplished players on the team, spending four years with San Diego State. She tallied 33 goals and 17 assists last year for the Azteks and decided at the end of last year that she wanted to fulfill her ultimate goal — playing ACC lacrosse. 

“When I decided to go into the portal, I honestly knew that [Pitt] was the place where I wanted to end up,” O’Donnell said. “I came from a school that wasn’t recognized as much, so I kind of had to come in and prove to everyone and myself that I deserve to be here. I view it as how lucky we are that we can put on our uniform every day and play in the ACC.”

While San Diego State still plays solid competition out west, O’Donnell made it clear that the level of competition on the East Coast is much higher, stemming from the increased popularity of lacrosse in the region.

“The lacrosse IQ out here is just so much higher and the speed of the game has increased so much,” O’Donnell said. “Playing all these teams that are deep and have had success for so long has been a really big jump.”

According to Boissonneault, O’Donnell’s identity as a player is one who is endlessly energetic, always pushing her teammates to their full potential. It’s that enthusiasm which Boissonneault believes convinced the team to name her captain. 

“Fireball is probably the best way to describe her,” Boissonneault said. “She’s just kind of a go, go, go player and person, so she really kind of rallies the team to push harder. She always wants more from everyone.”

The third and final captain, graduate student attacker Molly Carter, is in her second year at Pitt, but spent all of last season sidelined due to injury. Prior to her time with the Panthers, Carter spent three seasons playing for Syracuse, recording 16 goals and 19 assists in 29 career games with the Orange. 

While she hasn’t yet made an appearance for the Panthers, Carter made a strong impression on her teammates last year and will play an integral role in the lineup this year. According to Boissonneault, Carter’s more relaxed demeanor balances out O’Donnell’s fire and passion. Still, she leads by example and doesn’t make many mistakes on the field. 

“Molly is an athlete, she is really clean,” Boissonneault said. “She’s a lot of fun to be around and I think that’s always been something that the team has really respected — she uses comic relief sometimes to keep people light.”

After a year on the sidelines, Carter said more than anything, she’s just excited to join her teammates on the field again. She’s learned to appreciate every moment and knows that she will contribute heavily to the team’s success. 

“Personally, I just can’t wait to see that first goal scored and celebrate while I’m on the field with my teammates,” Carter said. “I’m just super excited to actually be able to celebrate all the little victories with my teammates and win some games for us.”

As a more experienced leader on a very young Panthers team, Carter knows that both her and the other two captains are the true leaders of the team, setting the example for players who haven’t played at the collegiate level. 

“It’s super important to have great leaders, especially Cam and Abby, like they’re awesome leaders on the field and have great voices, everyone respects and listens to them,” Carter said. “It’s super important to have those great leaders in the first couple years of your program just so you can build something and leave a legacy behind.” 

On the surface, the Panthers look prone to a regression. Losing 13 talented, experienced players isn’t an easy feat to bounce back from. Still, the captains and the rest of the team both know that the first-year pressure is off — the only thing left for them to do is just play and improve bit by bit every day.

“I think, as long as I’m here anyway, that it’s always going to be important that we focus on improving the foundation and the legacy of this team, especially with a majority of our starting lineup gone,” Thorne said. “We do almost have to start from scratch and I think our work ethic this year has been outstanding, because what we lack in experience we have in just the ability to work our asses off because everyone is fighting for their spot on the team.”

The Panthers kick off their sophomore season on Saturday at noon against cross-town rival Duquesne.