In a whirlwind of hiring, recruiting, and program building, Butler University has added a new varsity sport: women’s lacrosse. The Division I team began its journey as a BIG EAST program in February. 

Head Coach Cecil Pilson, who previously coached at Mercyhurst University for more than a decade, said he is glad Athletic Director Barry Collier and President James Danko had faith in him. 

“It’s definitely very exciting to start a Division I program, especially in the BIG EAST and at a university like Butler,” he said. “As a coach, you always want to be at a school where you can buy into the school’s philosophy and the academics. Butler aligned with everything I wanted as a coach.” 

In early 2016, Pilson worked tirelessly to contact potential recruits and encourage them to submit applications to Butler. “I recruited a large roster knowing that a lot of other D-I programs…did not have enough players,” Pilson said. “We definitely have the numbers now to be successful.” The team’s roster of 30 women includes first-year recruits, transfers, and former club team players. 

Senior and Captain Emma Annand was on the club team during her first three years at Butler. After playing for Granite State Elite and in high school, Annand said she considered playing lacrosse in college, but ended up really loving Butler and decided to play club. But then she got the opportunity to play varsity. 

“I met with Coach Pilson and he was very convincing,” she said. “And I thought, in 10 years looking back, if I didn’t do this, I would kick myself. And I have not looked back.” 

First-year student Journey Fischbeck is among the first class of recruits who will get the chance to play lacrosse for her entire career at Butler. She was originally going to attend Mercyhurst but decided to follow Pilson to Butler after falling in love with Butler’s big-school feel with small-school perks. She said the basketball team didn’t hurt either. 

The inaugural team’s season will be full of firsts. “Everything we do—no matter what—it makes history,” Annand said. “We’re writing our story and laying the foundation for years to come. We’re setting the mold for how the program is going to be, so we are not taking anything lightly. Everything we do has a lot of thought behind it because it is so significant.” 

Pilson said his No. 1 goal for the season is growth. “Regardless of wins and losses, what is really important is that the team is able to develop,” he said. “The thing I can control is players developing and becoming better, setting that culture for them to grow on.”