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Salem’s Cotter breaks MHSAA record for career LAX goals

 Salem’s Cotter breaks MHSAA record for career LAX goals

Mileena Cotter is flanked by Salem Head Coach Damien Butler and Assistant Coach Jennifer Villar.

Not long after he was hired as the Salem girls lacrosse coach before the 2020 season, Damien Butler received some good news from a fellow coach.

“He called me and told me, ‘Hey, you have a great freshman coming in’,” Butler recalled Saturday afternoon, moments after the Rocks’ final 2024 game. “He said, ‘She’s special’.

“I joked with him and said, ‘I hope I don’t ruin her’.”

The freshman’s name was Mileena Cotter and, no, Butler did not ruin her.

On Saturday, Cotter broke the Michigan High School Athletic Association record for most career goals scored by a girls lacrosse player.

Prodigious scorer, better person

Finishing with 472 goals following Saturday’s Plymouth-Canton Educational Park’s three-team, season-ending tournament, Cotter shattered the previous mark of 461 set by Cranbrook Kingswood’s Izzy Scane.

(To check out video highlights from Mileena Cotter’s 16-goal effort against Northville in the Division 1 regional semifinals, click here.

Mileena Cotter scores one of her 16 goals during last week's regional semifinal game
Mileena Cotter scores one of her 16 goals during last weeks regional semifinal game

To put Cotter’s immense accomplishment into better focus, she set the record even though her freshman season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic — and it only took her 49 games compared to the 93 it took Scane.

“Mileena has beaten teams all by herself,” Butler said, when asked how the personable senior who wore No. 23 at Salem impacted the Rocks’ lacrosse program.

“Teams would stack players in front of the net, but Mileena would go through them like they were traffic cones.

“After her freshman season was canceled due to COVID in 2020, the MHSAA let us play one fall tournament. At the first practice, I watched her for 10 minutes and thought to myself, ‘This is crazy!’ She’s that good. I mean, her moves are so good, she makes goalies fall down.”

Blessed with humility to match her talent, Cotter praised her coaches and teammates when asked to describe her feelings regarding her history-making achievement.

‘I am so thankful’

“I feel so lucky to have played for coaches who supported me and teammates who have always had my back,” said Cotter, as three gold helium-filled balloons — 4, 6 and 2 to represent the record-breaking goal total — fluttered in the breeze behind her.

“I am so thankful everyday to have been able to play in this amazing atmosphere where everybody respects everybody else. This record is for the team, not for me.”

Headed to Syracuse University later this summer to play lacrosse for one of the most heralded NCAA programs ever, Cotter heaped praise on her family — parents Paul and Lisa; and brothers Paul and Jack — for their unyielding support.

“My parents didn’t miss one of my high school games — and it won’t surprise me if they don’t miss a game at Syracuse, even though it’s a seven-and-a-half-hour drive,” she said.

Athletic family

Cotter’s brother Paul plays for the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and Jack recently finished his 2023-24 season playing for the Eastern Hockey League’s Boston Jr. Terriers.

Mileena Cotter rushes up the field while playing for an esteemed East Coast summer lacrosse team
Mileena Cotter rushes up the field while playing for an esteemed East Coast summer lacrosse team

“Even though my brothers couldn’t make a lot of my games because they live so far away during the season, their support means the world to me,” she said. “Paul is always texting me after games, hyping me up, and Jack has gotten to as many games as he could.

“You hear people say, ‘Family matters’ over and over, and to me it truly does.”

Cotter doesn’t remember the details of her first high school goal in the fall of 2020; nor could she recall her most important single high school goal.

Memorable goal

The one goal that stands out in her mind from the Rocks’ incredibly successful 2024 season is one scored by a teammate.

“The first game we played Plymouth this season, it was a super-tight game,” Cotter recounted. “Then Bella Papazoglou, a sophomore for us, scored this amazing, end-to-end goal. I went up to her and I told her, ‘Forget all the goals I’ve scored, that was the one we needed. That was the best goal!’.”

Cotter said she became emotional after scoring the record-breaking goal Saturday.

“I can’t put into words how much I’m going to miss playing for Salem, playing for my coaches and with these amazing teammates,” she concluded.

Butler closed by sharing why he thinks Cotter is an all-time great in Michigan lacrosse.

“She never stops working,” he said. “She simply outworks everybody. I know they have a lot of great players at Syracuse, but whoever is battling for the same position as Mileena better be ready to work.”

Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or

Mileena Cotter walks off the field with her teammates
Mileena Cotter walks off the field with her teammates
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Ed Wright

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