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Women’s Lacrosse: Rewriting the record books

Meaghan Veselik | Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Scoring goals is how Jillian Byers plays the game, and Notre Dame’s senior captain showed it Saturday when she scored five to set the all-time Irish record for career points.

“I am someone who is very passionate about the sport of lacrosse, so it is nice after four years to have something to show for all of the hard work and sacrifices everyone has made along the way,” Byers said. “It’s definitely a great accomplishment.”

Byers passed former teammate Crysti Foote, class of 2006, to become Notre Dame’s all-time leader with 238 points after entering the season with 225, good for third.

“She is a very graceful player,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “She makes it look effortless when it’s not and has put a lot of work into it. She is an exciting player to watch. She generates the feeling that something special is going to happen and that definitely was true on Saturday.”

Byers has been making an impact on the field for the Irish since the start of her freshman season in 2006, when she played alongside Foote. Byers scored 54 goals and picked up 24 assists for 78 points, second on the team behind Foote’s 114.

As a sophomore, Byers’ 66 points on 58 goals and 8 assists led the Irish. She led the team again in her junior season, scoring 67 goals and 14 assists for 81 points. This season, Byers leads the Irish in goals with 13 and is second in points.

Byers is the only Irish player to ever score at least 50 goals and 66 points in a season three straight times. Last season, she became Notre Dame’s all-time goal-scoring leader with 179 in three seasons, and her 52 draw controls broke the school record as well. Last year, she also ranked 14th in the nation in points and was tied for seventh in goals.

“She gives a lot of positive recognition to our program,” Coyne said. “Jill is very special. She is an extremely hard worker and is very team-oriented, but what I think she’d like to have even more is a Big East championship. She is still focused on the team goals and accomplishments.”

For Byers, breaking records and making a name for herself started before even stepping foot on Notre Dame’s campus.

Coming into her freshman year, she held her Long Island high school’s records for goals and assists in a career and was among the top four in goals and assists in a season and career for the state of New York. She was a lacrosse captain her senior year, as well as three-time MVP, and an All-American her junior and senior years.

Her senior year, Inside Lacrosse magazine named her one of the top-10 “Blue Chip” recruits nationally.

“Jill was very heavily recruited, and at the time she was the biggest recruit we’d signed,” Coyne said. “But she also chose Notre Dame for what the University represents. It encompasses everything she values and she has gained confidence in herself as a student through her accomplishments with lacrosse.

“Her decision to come here impacted the program, but I think the University has impacted her as well.”

Byers never regretted choosing Notre Dame over other schools.

“I feel very blessed to play for Notre Dame,” Byers said. “Tracy is a competitive coach who loves to win, so we get along well. Playing for Notre Dame is a dream come true. Being able to represent one of the most prestigious universities in the nation and play the sport I love is something I don’t take for granted.”

Byers’ success for the Irish has been noticed outside of South Bend; her competitors and league officials have recognized the attack’s impact on the field.

She is a three-time IWLCA second team All-American and unanimous first team All-Big East selection, and was named to the 2009 preseason All Big East team with Notre Dame teammates Shannon Burke and Shaylyn Blaney.

Byers, along with Blaney, has been nominated for the esteemed Tewaaraton Trophy this year, the top collegiate lacrosse award in the country. She is the fourth Notre Dame player to be nominated.

“Being named to the all-Big East team is great because our conference keeps getting more and more competitive each year,” Byers said.

Byers’ accomplishments are well worth her efforts, and only hopes to help her team accomplish even more as the season progresses.

“I would love to look back on my college career and have something tangible to show for all the hard work I have put into lacrosse.  A Big East championship and a national championship are always on my mind and leaving a legacy of tradition and excellence for those younger than me is something I strive to do each and every day,” she said.