Elizabeth Winkler, known affectionately to her friends and teammates as “Lizz,” didn’t know that moving to a new high school in Chicago would mark the beginning of her eight-year career as a lacrosse player. Sadly, the senior business major also didn’t know that those eight years of dedication would be cut short by the ongoing global pandemic.
Winkler has been involved in various sports her whole life, starting off with Ti Kwon Do at age four, going on to gymnastics (which she stayed with for a total of 10 years), and soccer, but eventually she was drawn to lacrosse.
When asked what her draw to the sport was, she said initially, her interest was sparked by her neighbors, who got her involved, helping her to love and succeed in the sport.
She started playing freshman year at St. Charles High School, a public high school in Winkler’s home town of Chicago and began to fall in love with the sport. Winkler joined a club in her junior year and remained there for the rest of high school.
During her sophomore year in the club, she was put in goal for the first time.
“They just kind of threw me in there,” Lizz said, expressing that her love of the position grew over time. “I’ve played it ever since then, so I’ve actually played goalie for seven years now.”
Winkler said that a large part of her decision to come to the University of Dallas was the ability to play lacrosse. Her visit to campus, with its advertisement of the Core curriculum and the Rome semester, sealed the deal.
“I got to really see a day in the life of someone at UD and I really enjoyed it.”
Since coming to UD, Winkler has not only been a student-athlete all four years but additionally served as a representative on Student Government. Winkler attributed developing those necessary time management skills to the years of balancing sports and school.
Nearing the end of her season, hearing rumors and chatter, Winkler said she suspected the season would be affected about a week before the official statement came out. She said it was during a game that the suspicions really took shape.
“The ref had told us, ‘Oh, because of coronavirus, we can’t shake hands,’ and that was kind of the first red flag, where it was like, ‘Oh, this is a problem,’” Winkler said. “I didn’t realize it until halfway through the game … that game could have been my last game and it turned out to be my last game.”
Winkler reported that that last game had been a frustrating loss, and after the game, the locker room was filled with emotion. Winkler used the impending coronavirus as a motivation for the team to give their remaining season everything they had, with her voice as a captain and the only senior on the team strongly carrying the message across the locker room. She didn’t know that game would mark their last of the season.
Thursday’s practice, following that weekend game, was canceled pending updates about the coronavirus. It was then that Winkler came to the full realization that her season was over, even though it was only the next day that coach Kaitlin Cochran officially informed the team.
“It was something that was very different, knowing that it was the coronavirus to end my season … It ended another chapter of my life,” Winkler said, her voice cracking. “When I moved to a new school in Chicago, that’s when I started playing lacrosse. And then lacrosse was what brought me to the University of Dallas, so it’s been something that’s been consistent in my life for the past 8 years and now it’s kind of scary to think, ‘Okay now I’m graduating college, and I don’t have lacrosse anymore’ and I didn’t quite get to process … that transition.’”
Winkler said some of her highlights over the years have been growing close with the teammates who returned year after year in a very fluctuating program.
Junior Emily Pauletti has been on the lacrosse team since she began her time at UD.
“I’ve known Lizz for 3 years,” Pauletti wrote via text. “Lizz brought integrity and grit to the field this season. She played through pain and injury for the team and was always committed, rain or shine.”
Pauletti’s reference to pain was well-founded. Winkler will pursue an M.A. in business analytics with a concentration in cybersecurity but unfortunately cannot use her extra season of eligibility. This past season, Winkler was playing on an ankle injury that needed surgery a year ago.
“As much as I want to, I wish I could just get a new ankle. It doesn’t quite work that way,” Winkler said.
“Lizz was always fully committed … and worked hard to balance all her activities from being on the lacrosse team to serving in student government. She has helped make significant progress for UD athletes and the athletic program,” Pauletti wrote. “Although the season was cut short, Lizz always gave her all. I’m really going to miss playing with her.”
At this, the end of the school year, our hearts and thoughts go out to all the seniors who will graduate without being able to finish their final seasons.