Rookie makes instant impact under Brand
Second in the Big East in points allowed, the Rutgers women's lacrosse team's defense finally found success with a blend of experienced defenders and some who are new to the mix.
One of the players who bridged the gap between those two groups was freshman Chelsea Intrabartola, who landed the starting job in the second game of her collegiate career.
And the freshman defender is blending right in with the veterans.
"I think it's an honor," Intrabartola said. "I feel privileged to be out there. I learn from them and they give me advice every game and every practice."
Although the defender is just starting her collegiate career, she transitioned more easily than most freshmen not only because of her skill, but also because of her confidence playing with the Scarlet Knights.
"It's definitely a lot more competitive than anywhere I've played before, but I try not to think of it that way," Intrabartola said. "These girls are students just like me and athletes just like me. I try not to think of the competition level while I play."
By the numbers, it looked like Intrabartola's breakout game was on Tuesday against Monmouth, when the Commack, N.Y., native caused four turnovers for a career high.
But Intrabartola has been a consistent defender all season, even when her production does not show up in the box score.
"I think she did step up and start taking more chances than she has been, but I don't want to discredit the job she's done prior to the Monmouth game," said head coach Laura Brand.
Brand had a message for her defense and her entire team after an 11-6 loss last Friday to Notre Dame: be more aggressive.
Many of the Knights took that message to heart in their 19-9 victory over Monmouth earlier this week, especially Intrabartola.
"She did have a great game against them and really took to heart the things that we were saying in terms of being more aggressive on defense, and we sent that message to everybody as a whole," Brand said. "I think she really stepped up and took that to heart."
Intrabartola not only consistently showed the heart to secure a key role on defense, but she also showed the ability as a one-on-one defender.
"She's probably one of — if not our best [one-on-one] defender," Brand said. "There have been very few defenders that I've seen in my time here that can guard [Rutgers leading scorer] Marley Welsh. She consistently stops her in practice."
When Intrabartola was recruited, she had more experience under her belt than just high school lacrosse.
She participated in the Under-17 World Championship in 2007 at Trent University in Canada and also served as a reserve player on the Long Island Empire team in 2008, which also included sophomore teammates Stephanie Anderson and Lily Kalata.
Her experience up to that point helped Brand see Intrabartola's potential to make an early impact when she recruited the defender to Rutgers.
And so far, that vision holds true.
"It always comes down to how confident they feel when they get here, and how well they blend into practice and really show what they can do," Brand said of incoming freshmen. "She's a smart defender and she understands team defense, so it didn't take her too long to learn the system and learn how things are done."