Rookie translates high school success to Rutgers
The last two games for the Rutgers women's lacrosse team began the same way — a goal by freshman Lauren Sbrilli.
The midfielder has been able to score all year, whether it was off the bench or in one of her seven starts in 13 games.
Sbrilli's consistency stems from her confidence, which is always present no matter where she is on the depth chart.
"I was very comfortable with all my teammates, and they have confidence in me just like I have confidence in them," Sbrilli said. "That's helped me to drive to the goal."
Sbrilli showed that confidence since Day 1 of her freshman season, when she scored in her collegiate debut on Feb. 23 against Temple.
Her performance against the Owls began Sbrilli's case to start, even if she did not expect it at the time.
"Because Rutgers is at the college level and I'm a freshman, I wasn't expected to start," Sbrilli said. "I was just hoping to get some playing time."
Sbrilli had one thing going for her before she arrived with the Scarlet Knights — her strength o the attack. The Bridgewater-Raritan (N.J.) product finished her high school career second all-time in New Jersey with 336 goals.
Sbrilli immediately translated that skill into college by scoring three goals in her first three games off the bench.
But before getting her first start against Pennsylvania on March 16, the midfielder rounded out the rest of her game.
"[Defense] was an area that I was weak at, and now I've improved with my slides and my [one- on-one] defense is much stronger," Sbrilli said.
But Sbrilli did not stop improving upon receiving the starting job. Her new mindset at the beginning of games improved her confidence that got her there in the first place.
"I'm calmer starting the game than coming off the bench because the intensity level's already high when you come off the bench because I'm thrown into it all," Sbrilli said.
Sbrilli proved herself not only in games, but also in practices by consistently penetrating through the Big East's second-ranked defense in points allowed.
"She's probably — for me — one of the most difficult people to defend [in practice] because she's all over the place," said senior midfielder Shawn Lopez. "She's a really athletic person."
Sbrilli's athleticism was evident all season in her speed in one-on-one matchups.
"She is really good at back-dooring you. The second you turn your head to see the ball, she's gone and she's left you in the dust," Lopez said. "She does it to me time and time again in practice and it drives me nuts, but that's why I'm glad she's on my team."
Sbrilli proved her worth consistently enough in practice to be trusted with the ball during games. The midfielder scored eight goals in seven starts in her freshman season.
"I trust her as I would any veteran on our team," Lopez said. "She has a good grasp of how our offense works and she's a huge contributor."
The trust Sbrilli's teammates show in her can only grow in her tenure at Rutgers.
The best way the Knights can figure out their opposing defenses in future games is by experimenting against them.
That experimentation started in the past two games by putting the ball in Sbrilli's stick.
In only her freshman season, Sbrilli capitalized on those opportunities.