Matchup with Princeton tests RU’s stamina
The Rutgers women’s lacrosse team hits the road for a three-game stretch today, hoping to leave behind its second-half struggles in Piscataway.
Dropping their first two games against Temple and Cornell by one-goal margins, the Scarlet Knights (0-2) want a fresh start at Princeton.
“We have to just shrug off the last two games,” said head coach Laura Brand-Sias. “They’re over and done with.”
With a shot at the No. 8 Tigers, the Knights have the opportunity to get back on track in their 6 p.m. showdown at the Class of 1952 Stadium.
But Princeton enters its home opener with a 1-0 record from a 16-3 rout of Villanova.
Its high-powered offense featured six players with multiple scores against ’Nova. Junior attack Jaci Gassaway led the way with five.
“They have some good shooters,” said junior goalie Lily Kalata. “That’s why they’re ranked so high, but our biggest strength is our ability to take out key players.”
The Knights defense held Temple’s leading scorer, Jaymie Tabor, scoreless for 50 minutes and kept Cornell’s best offensive threat, Jessi Steinberg, blanketed at the net all game.
The unit must continue its success and limit Gassaway in the process. Sophomore Lauren Sbrilli said it starts in the midfield.
“We have to try to match up the speed and keep them outside so they don’t have that ready shot,” the Martinsville, N.J., native said.
On the other end, the offense needs to match the effectiveness of the defense.
Blanked for 15 minutes in the game’s waning moments Saturday against Cornell, the Knights could not find an offensive rhythm, which put too much pressure on the defense, Brand-Sias said.
“We have to be prepared to not let down for any portion of the 60 minutes,” the 10th-year head coach said. “We have to bring our best game.”
The Knights brought one of their best games a season ago against their in-state rival. Taking the then-No. 20 Tigers to overtime, Kalata surrendered the game-winner late in the extra session. The late-game defeat has become a spark of motivation for the Nesconset, N.Y. native.
“We lost by one goal,” Kalata said. “It’s always hardest on the goalie. It was that one last goal. It’s been driving me [as we’ve been] training for them, thinking, ‘I never want to have that feeling again.’”
After upsetting the Tigers on their home field in 2010, Brand-Sias said her current squad has all the workings to do it again.
“We have the talent to get it done,” she said. “It’s just a matter of us putting it all together. One thing that we can always count on is that we’re going to fight.”
On the road trip, the Knights must continue to fight not only against Princeton, but also against their third Ivy League foe, Pennsylvania. Rounding out the trip at Hofstra, the Knights hope to return with their second-half stumbles solved.